Photo By: Rhett Lewis from Unsplash
The Canadian men’s soccer team is heading to the World Cup for the first time since 1986. The qualification berth comes after an electrifying 4-0 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday, March 27.
Entering the final qualifying window of CONCACAF matches, the World Cup berth was all but a formality for the Canadians. Amongst the eight teams from North and Central America, Canada sat atop the table with an undefeated record.
The first match of this window saw Canada needing a win in Costa Rica to formalize their historic bid. Things didn’t go Canada’s way in San Jose, as starting midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye was sent off with a red card in the match’s 34th minute. Playing a man down, Canada surrendered a goal late in the first half to Costa Rican midfielder Celso Borges.
The Canadians battled hard in the second half, generating many opportunities and ultimately keeping 68 per cent of the possession when all was said and done. The red card disadvantage was simply too much to overcome, as Canada lost 1-0. It was Canada’s first loss of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
After the loss, Canada regrouped and travelled back home to Toronto to face seventh-place Jamaica on Sunday, needing only a draw to clinch the elusive bid. A packed house in frigid weather at BMO Field greeted the team with open arms, and the action on the pitch warmed up the stadium in a matter of minutes.
The team’s all-time leading goal scorer, forward and Brampton native Cyle Larin buried one in the back of the net on a pass from stud midfielder Stephen Eustaquio to strike first in the 13th minute. What happened from that point can only be described as a party, as cheers and chants showered the players from all around the arena.
Canada’s keeper Milan Borjan made a few superb saves in the first half, as he continued his string of rock-solid performances. Winger Tajon Buchanan snuck one past Jamaica’s goalkeeper off a cross from Jonathan David to add an insurance goal seconds before halftime. Much later, Buchanan set up Junior Hoilett in the box to make it 3-0 in the 82nd minute. A final own goal ricocheted into Jamaica’s net, as the 4-0 result became official.
The World Cup berth is a historic one for Canada. Not only is it their first since 1986, it also comes just four years after head coach John Herdman took the reins of the program. Doing so without superstar Alphonso Davies for the last two qualifying windows makes the result even more impressive.
The team will play one final qualifying match in Panama City on Wednesday night, which will have some seeding implications for the World Cup. Joining Canada from the CONCACAF region will be the second, third, and fourth place teams, spots currently held by the United States, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
In November, Canada will head to Qatar to prove themselves amongst the best of the best on the world stage, and the nation will look on as Canada’s men’s team hopes to replicate some of the illustrious successes seen from the women’s side of the program.