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Veteran Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio not interested in easy road to World Cup

Canada's Jonathan Osorio, left, celebrates scoring his side's first goal against Mexico during a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, at Azteca stadium in Mexico City, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. AP Photo/Fernando Llano

Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio isn’t interested in getting to the World Cup via the back door, as co-host in 2026.

“I want to be part of a team that’s able to say that we qualified and not hosted a World Cup,” he told a virtual availability Tuesday. “We want to qualify. We want to earn our spot in the World Cup because that’s something that’s very prestigious.

“And secondly with everything that’s happening in the soccer world in this country, I think it’s important that we get it going now. Let’s get it going now, instead of waiting until the World Cup comes home. Especially because we can. We have the talent. We have the players. We have now the support. I think we have the support of the people behind us now.

“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come and even more amazing to see how far we’re going to go. Because I think the future is so so bright for football in this country.”

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READ MORE: Spotlight turns to Alphonso Davies ahead of Canada’s World Cup qualifiers in Edmonton

Canada can take a big step down the qualifying road with results against No. 45 Costa Rica on Friday and No. 9 Mexico on Nov. 16. Both games are at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium with more than 40,000 tickets sold for each.

READ MORE: Team Canada gets reinforcements for crucial World Cup qualifying games in Edmonton 

Canada (2-0-4, 10 points) stands third in the Octagonal round-robin standings behind Mexico (4-0-2, 14 points) and the 13th-ranked U.S. (3-1-2, 11 points). No. 69 Panama (2-2-2, eight points) is fourth and Costa Rica fifth (1-2-3, six points).

Come March, the top three teams will qualify for Qatar 2022, representing North and Central America and the Caribbean. The fourth-place team will take part in an intercontinental qualifier to see who joins them.

Picking up points from home qualifying games is seen a crucial to success.

“We know how important these two games are,” said Osorio, a Toronto FC veteran who has won 47 caps for Canada.

“We want to take advantage of being at home for these two games… We feel good. We feel really good. We want to take maximum points from this window and we believe we will.”

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Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21) salutes the fans after defeating Pacific FC in Canadian Championship semifinal action in Toronto on Wednesday, November 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Evan Buhler

FIFA has traditionally given automatic qualification to World Cup hosts but has yet to officially confirm that will still be the case for the expanded 2026 tournament, which will feature 48 teams up from 32.

Canada has only ever qualified for one men’s World Cup, in Mexico in 1986. Osorio says the country is “itching” to get back.

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