Canada defeats Mexico in World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1976
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The win over Mexico puts Canada into first place and amongst the top three teams in the CONCACAF final qualifying standings.
History has shown that success does not come easily. That appropriately describes the Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team who finally beat their longtime CONCACAF nemesis, Mexico. Canada won by a score of two to one in an epic match at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on November 16.
The game occurred during freezing cold temperatures with snow. TSN shared an Environment Canada report that the temperature at game time was – 9 C, with a wind chill of – 14 C; something that Mexico is not used to. But it made for a compelling match, with the intensity and hostility increasing throughout the entire game. Canada was out to show that they were no longer going to be pushed around and bullied by the Mexicans (who before the game had only lost once to Canada in World Cup qualifying). It was Canada’s turn to exact revenge.
Canada dominated Mexico, dictating the play. The Canadians would open the scoring before the end of the first half in injury time. The first goal emerged suddenly when Canadian defender Alistair Johnston struck a hardball towards Mexico goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa. He made the save but left a rebound for Cyle Larin to score, sending the 44,212 fans at Commonwealth Stadium into euphoria.
In the second half, Larin scored his second goal of the game in the 52nd minute after tapping home a perfect cross from Stephen Eustáquio. Mexico finally scored in the 90th minute, on a header by Hector Herrera. Mexico continued pressing for the equalizer and it was nail-biting time for Canadian fans with five minutes of added time. Canadian goalkeeper, Milan Borjan, made two crucial goal-line stops, helping Canada to withstand the relentless Mexican attack and hold on to the victory.
After the match was over, the animosity continued with both teams pushing and shoving each other. Mexico did not leave the pitch immediately. Eventually, they did, as the celebrations began with television cameras filming Canadian star, Alphonso Davies, running on the pitch holding a Canadian flag.
Canada is hoping to qualify for their first FIFA World Cup tournament in 35 years. The win over Mexico puts Canada into first place and amongst the top three teams in the CONCACAF final qualifying standings. Canada has 16 points, followed by the US with 15 and Mexico with 14. The Canadians won their previous qualifying match in Edmonton, defeating Costa Rica by a score of one to zero on November 12.
Prior to the start of Canada’s CONCACAF final qualifying matches in 2021, the last significant soccer match in Canadian soccer history was on September 14, 1985. On that day, Canada defeated Honduras by a score of two to one in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The victory sent the Canadians to the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. It has been a very long time since Canada played a notable soccer match. But the difference between the current Canadian Men’s National Soccer team to prior national teams is that this team looks like a legitimate World Cup team.
Alphonso Davies, who played for the Edmonton Strikers as a youth player, has enjoyed returning to his hometown. The Bayern Munich star has been prominent after arriving in Edmonton a few days before Canada’s match against Costa Rica. Davies has given interviews and been shown prominently on social media by Canada Soccer
The Toronto Star reported November 14 that Davies, during a presentation, received the Lou Marsh Trophy as a co-winner. The award honours Canada’s best athlete. The announcement had been made in December 2020 that Davies would be sharing the award with NFL offensive lineman, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Davies becomes the second soccer player to win the award; with Christine Sinclair winning in 2012. “That year was good,” Davies said. “It was amazing individually, team-wise as well. For me it’s just keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing when I won the award. For me nothing changes. My focus now is the national team, and I’m excited for this game on Tuesday [against Mexico].”
After winning the award in December 2020, Davies posted on Twitter: “This year has been a roller-coaster and I’ve very happy to be able to share the Lou Marsh with another deserving winner (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif). It hasn’t been an easy year for many Canadians (and) we hope we were able to bring some happiness to you with our accomplishments this year.”
Canada now has a 10-week break before they face Honduras on January 27, 2022. The Canadians have six qualifying games left. If they continue at the pace they are at, they will be one of the three CONCACAF teams packing their bags for Qatar in 2022. Perhaps, it is not unfathomable that Canada will likely qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the second time in the country’s history. Based on their play in the final qualifying round, they are no longer a team that will just show up and compete; Canada’s Men’s National Soccer Team has proven they can win.
Other notes (courtesy of The Canadian Press)
Canada’s Cyle Larin scored two goals, giving him a total of 22 goals. It ties him with Dwayne De Rosario for most goals scored by a Canadian Men’s National soccer player. Also, Atiba Hutchinson began the game for Canada. It was his 90th cap representing Canada. Hutchinson surpassed Julian de Guzman as the most-capped men’s player in Canadian soccer history. Significantly, Canada’s victory over Mexico was the first win over the Mexicans in World Cup qualifying since 1976. However, the last time Canada defeated Mexico was in 2000 at the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.