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TORONTO — Canada put on a show on Sunday by qualifying for the men’s World Cup for the first time since 1985.
Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and Junior Hoilett scored as the Canadians battled out an overmatched Jamaican side in a 4-0 win in front of a loud, proud crowd of 29,122 on a freezing day at BMO Field. A Jamaican own goal in the 89th minute completed the scoring.
And the margin of victory could have been much more lopsided.
Canada (8-1-4, 28 points in the last CONCACAF qualifying round) dominated from the start, racking up scoring chances like firewood. The home side were leading 1-0 after 13 minutes and 2-0 at the break. It could have been 4-0 midway through the first half when the sun made its first appearance.
Jamaica (1-7-5, eight points) spent the afternoon in reverse. The game was over and dusted off after the first half.
The historic victory came 37 years after Canada qualified for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico with a 1-0 victory over Honduras on September 14, 1985 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. they lost all three games without scoring a goal.
Canada soccer had its peak with the sixth-ranked Canadian women winning gold last summer at the Tokyo Olympics. Now the No. 33-ranked men, led by coach John Herdman, have time to shine in Qatar, while extending their lead to the 2026 World Cup, which Canada is co-hosting with the United States. and Mexico.
The Canadian men, who lead the eight-nation final round robin, also had a chance to seal qualification Thursday in Costa Rica, but lost 1-0 after playing two-thirds of the game with 10 men in the wake by Mark Anthony. Kaye’s red card.
This marked the only blemish on their qualifying route. Heading into Sunday’s game, Canada had outscored their opponents 50-7 while posting 11 clean sheets in 18 three-round qualifying games (13-1-4).
On a cold day, Canada came out hot and were rewarded for their dominance in the 13th minute when, after a lightning fast counter-attack, Hoilett squared the ball to Stephen Eustaquio who threaded the needle to place Larin behind defense. The Besiktas striker calmly slipped the ball past goalkeeper Andre Blake for his 24th goal for Canada, extending his national men’s goalscoring record.
Buchanan made it 2-0 in the 44th minute as Jamaica failed to manage a free kick the Club Brugge winger deserved after being brought down midway through several passes. A defender headed Eustaquio’s free-kick but it went straight to Jonathan David, whose cross fell at Buchanan’s feet in front of goal.
He celebrated the goal with his trademark backflip.
Hoilett made it 3-0 in the 83rd after Buchanan snatched the ball from a defender after a corner and fed the veteran Hoilett, who ran through the penalty area and beat Blake for his 14th goal for Canada.
Adrian Mariappa’s failed attempt to clear a Sam Adegukbe cross ended in the Jamaican goal to make it 4-0.
In the following matches on Sunday, it was Costa Rica in El Salvador, Panama in the United States and Mexico in Honduras.
The Canadians, who concluded qualifying on Wednesday in Panama, only needed a draw on Sunday to qualify. Other qualifying routes were if Costa Rica did not win or a Panama victory over the United States
The top three teams qualify for Qatar as representatives of North and Central America and the Caribbean, while the fourth runner-up faces a team from Oceania in an intercontinental match to see who will join them.
A blanket of snow greeted players and fans in Toronto when they woke up on Sunday, though most of it was gone by kickoff. Thanks to BMO Field’s underground heating, there was only a layer of white in some parts of the uneven terrain.
There were light gusts at kickoff. In a way, the conditions made it more Canadian.
“Our home. Our day. All of Canada is with you,” Canada Soccer tweeted in a video announcing the match, accompanied by the sounds of “Coming Home” by Diddy and Dirty Money featuring Skylar Grey.
The Canadians had faced worse in the snow in Edmonton last November when they defeated Mexico and Costa Rica.
It was still a cold and windy afternoon with minus five, feeling like minus -14 for the 4pm ET kickoff. This didn’t faze Larin, Richie Laryea or substitute Alistair Johnston, who were wearing short-sleeved shirts.
Canada’s flags flew proudly, with a few Ukrainian flags dotting the sold-out crowd.
Herdman made four changes to his starting lineup in Costa Rica, inserting defenders Scott Kennedy, Adekugbe and Doneil Henry and winger Hoilett. Adekugbe and Henry were suspended for the game against Costa Rica.
Goalkeeper Milan Borjan has taken over as skipper from Atiba Hutchinson.
Canada wasted no time and Blake had to recover a cross from Adegukbe in the second minute. Blake then had to stop a shot from Larin in the fourth minute after a great run from David, prompting chants of “Canada, Canada”.
David fired wide in the 15th minute after another Canadian attack. Six minutes later, Buchanan shot high.
The crowd cheered when Borjan was finally called into action to make a save in the 32nd minute.
Larin fired wide in the 38th minute, taking a cross from Adegukbe after a glorious ball from Hoilett found the flying full-back on the left flank.
The match opened up as the first half wore on, with Jamaica finding space in the Canadian side as the home side threw forward-facing bodies. Canada had 65% possession in the first half and had an 11-2 lead in shots (4-1 in shots on target).
It was more or less the same in the second half with Buchanan narrowly missing a low Larin cross through goal as play resumed. David fired a few minutes later.
Henry limped off in the 62nd minute, Herdman going to his bench. Borjan wasted no time giving up the captain’s armband when Hutchinson came on for his 94th cap, extending his Canadian men’s record. Chants of “Atiba, Atiba” followed.
Blake stopped substitute Lucas Cavallini in the 82nd minute, with chants of “Ole, Ole” from the crowd. Buchanan then tried to kick a corner home from the near post.
The Canadian men qualified the hard way this time around. While CONCACAF powerhouses Mexico and the United States earned a bye to the final round, Canada had to start from the bottom of the region.
Herdman’s team had to send Aruba, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Suriname and Haiti just to reach the final qualifying round for the first time since preparing for France ’98.
“If we look at it the right way, it could be quite a story,” Herdman said prophetically in July 2019 when CONCACAF revamped its qualifying process.
Thursday marked the fourth anniversary of Herdman’s first game in charge of the men, a 1-0 victory against New Zealand in Murcia, Spain, in front of just 75 people. His men’s record now stands at 29-7-4 with the only losses to the United States (twice), Mexico (twice), Costa Rica, Haiti and Iceland.
Qatar, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Iran, Japan, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia , Serbia, South Korea, Spain, are already qualified in the 32 teams of the Men’s World Cup. Switzerland and Uruguay.
Canada has appeared in seven of the eight Women’s World Cups, only missing the inaugural event in 1991. The women finished fourth at the 2003 tournament in the United States.
Jamaica were one of five teams to receive a bye into the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, but only managed one victory – a 2-0 decision in Honduras on October 13.
Canada’s men were ranked 73rd in the world, compared to Jamaica’s 47th, when they started World Cup qualifying in March 2021. Today, Canada is 33rd while Jamaica is 62nd.
There was always hope in the Jamaican side.
“Fearless Reggae Boyz to Spoil Canadian Party” was the headline of the Jamaican newspaper Gleaner.
Canada tied Jamaica 0-0 when the teams met on October 10 at the National Stadium in Kingston. The Canadian men improved to 10-6-7 against Jamaica, including 7-0-2 at home.
The Reggae Boyz are led by interim coach Paul Hall, who played for Jamaica at the 1998 World Cup in France.
Jamaica were missing Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey, out through a personal issue, with West Ham star striker Michail Antonio one of many other high profile absentees. Vancouver Whitecaps guard Javain Brown started for the visitors.
Canada were without Kaye, suspended after being sent off for two yellows in Costa Rica.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 27, 2022.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press