The CanMNT accomplished a dream 36 years in the making on Sunday – book a spot at the World Cup, something that they achieved with a 4-0 win over Jamaica at BMO Field. Here’s our match report from that one.
It almost feels surreal.
Yet, it happened. Somehow, someway, the CanMNT are going to play in the 2022 FIFA men’s World Cup in Qatar later this year, having snapped a 36-year World Cup drought this past weekend.
And not only that, they’re going in having blown the doors to that tournament down, instead of sneaking in through the back.
With just 1 loss through 19 games of qualifiers, having scored 54 goals while conceding only 7, this Canadian team has been locked in right from the first game of this process.
So in a sense, it was only fitting that they finished the job in the way that they did on Sunday, when they officially booked their ticket to the World Cup with a dominant 4-0 win over Jamaica.
On a day that was all set up for them to make history, they didn’t just come out and do the job, but they did so in style, too, putting the Reggae Boyz to the sword with a performance to remember at BMO Field.
“The group was so focused, determined,” Canadian defender, Alistair Johnston, said afterwards of what his team accomplished. “We knew we needed to do what was needed.”
Thanks to that, they were then able to accomplish a dream that a lot of people have had, but also one that many haven’t seen in their lifetime – make the World Cup.
And not only that, they also did so in a way that they could’ve only dreamed of doing – in front of 29 000+, at home – which as they noted afterwards, doesn’t get much better than that for a team.
“Look, I think this country never believed in us, and we gave them nothing to believe in,” Canadian head coach, John Herdman, said afterwards. “They believe now, & I think if we all get behind each other, this is the time for everyone to get behind football & unite because we can be a powerhouse”
And by completing a journey that started not just a year ago when qualifiers kicked off, but arguably 4 years ago when Herdman came to the program, it was a marquee stamp on what has been a massive turnaround for this program, who continues to hit new heights seemingly every week.
“There is more to come,” Canada’s Jonathan Osorio said. “This is the first step for this program. I remember people used to ask me about hosting 2026, they used to forget about Qatar, and I’d be like ‘hey, what are you talking about, we’re going to Qatar’, and now people believe and it’s incredible how much people are getting on board.”
Speaking of which, aren’t done for this team, either. Being in Qatar isn’t enough – they want to go there and make some noise now, continuing what they’ve done so far this qualifying.
Because of that, it feels like it’s a good time to start following this Canadian team, as this is just the start of what’s to come for them, which considering what they’ve done already over the last year, is quite something.
And this game was just a culmination of that, marking the end of this long journey in a way that everyone will remember for years and decades to come.
“We grew up from the bottom,” Osorio said. “And we had to do a lot to be where we are today. So this is special to do together with all my brothers.”
Larin paves the way for bright start
Right from the beginning, it promised to be a memorable game for Canada.
With a rocking crowd, the snow coming down, and the possibility of qualifying for the World Cup, it just really seemed like the script was written for Canada to go out and get the job done on the day.
But despite what was at stake for Canada, though, they didn’t let that affect their performance, as they came out with one goal in mind – to qualify for a World Cup, and to do so in dominant fashion, giving the crowd plenty to cheer about.
And that was clear from about as soon as they came out of the tunnel for warmups, and lingered as the game began.
Because of that, they came out flying out of the gates, eager to give their fans an early goal to cheer about and settle the nerves.
So it was no surprise that they nearly found that tally in the 4th minute, as Cyle Larin did well to create a half-breakaway for himself before getting denied by Jamaica’s Andre Blake in goal, before Junior Hoilett then had a nice look from distance a few minutes after.
As a result, it felt like not only a goal was coming, but it’d come rather quickly, too, as Jamaica seemed unable to cope with the flood of red bodies that Canada was sending forward with purpose in possession.
And that prophecy came true in the 12th minute.
After some calm play in possession down the left flank, Canada did well to funnel the ball into the middle of the pitch, where it came to Stephen Eustaquio at the edge of the box. From there, the FC Porto player showed why he’s one of Canada’s key pieces in midfield, as he waited just for the right moment, before playing a cutting pass behind the Jamaican backline.
There, it found the waiting run of Cyle Larin all alone in the box, and then the all-time leading CanMNT goalscorer did the rest, burying home with ease into the bottom corner for the lead.
With that, it sent BMO Field into a rapture of applause, as they got the early goal that they craved, and based on how Canada was playing to start, it was one that was deserved, too.
Plus, the fact that it came off Larin’s boot was only fitting, as well.
367 days ago, when Canada opened this journey towards Qatar, it was actually Larin who buried the first tally in a 5-1 rout over Bermuda, a game in which he scored 2 other times to complete a hat trick to give Canada their first win of this cycle.
And after that, all he’s done has been to score goals, as with this opening tally, he climbed up to 13 goals for this World Cup cycle (including an Octo-leading 6 goals), making him not only the top scorer in CONCACAF this cycle, but second in the whole world, too.
But that just shows how good Larin has been for this team on this run. Before, he was often a bit-part player for Canada, one who had good flashes, but just couldn’t hammer in his spot as a starter, as there was this feeling that he wasn’t fully living up to his potential as a Canadian player.
This past year, however, that’s changed in a big way, as Larin hasn’t only just scored for fun, but has scored in the biggest games and biggest moments.
So in a sense, it should’ve been known that he was going to score in this game, as that’s just been what he’s done these qualifiers, making it hardly surprising that he found a way to do that once again here.
Blood in the water:
But from there, with their lead secured, you could only wonder if they’d sit back and coast to a lead, or if they’d really try to bring down the hammer on Jamaica.
And the answer turned out to be the latter, as Canada wasted no time in trying to add to their lead.
First, they’d nearly find their second, as Jonathan David came close with a dangerous look inside the box in the 14th minute, before Tajon Buchanan also had a good look in the 20th minute, but somehow missed from a great position on his stronger foot.
Then, they got a bit of a push back from their opponents, Jamaica had a look at the other end, as Daniel Green found himself in a great position at the edge of the box, only finding his low effort denied by the good stop of Milan Borjan in Canada’s goal.
But then, after that rare Jamaica foray forward, it’d be all Canada all again, and they nearly added to their lead in the 37th minute. This time, it was Larin once more, and he got off a good shot after a nice cutback into the box, but just sent his shot wide.
And that’d prove to be a key warning shot for Canada, as they would soon finally find that second goal that they so desperately desired.
This time, it’d be Buchanan, who atoning for his earlier miss, found a nice pocket in the box after a corner kick, and the ball fell right to him with the net gaping. From there, he made no mistake, slamming the ball home before running off in celebration, hitting his famed acrobatic post-goal move.
With that, it’d all but cement Canada’s status in this game, as not only did they have a good lead, but they were more than full value for it, making it hard to imagine any scenario where they’d throw it away.
Time to party:
And from there, all that was left for Canada to cruise to a result, confirming the result that they’d so desperately craved, kickstarting a party to remember.
But before that, there was still plenty of time to extend their lead even further, giving their fans even more to cheer about.
Which, to give them credit, they did, ensuring that they’d finish the job in style.
After huffing and puffing for most of the half, Junior Hoilett found the net in the 83rd minute, adding his team’s 3rd of the game on a tidy finish from a tight angle.
Then, not long after, Sam Adekugbe capped off a strong performance from him on his return from suspension, as he did well to cross a dangerous ball into the box, forcing an own goal out of Jamaica’s Adrian Mariappa for the fourth.
And if there wasn’t any doubt about Canada’s qualification hopes before, there was certainly no doubt when that fourth goal breached the net, as the fans really got sent into a tizzy with that one.
Chanting ‘ole, ole, ole’, they exploded when the final whistle blew, before somehow finding a new level of energy when the team did their customary post-victory viking clap, it really the table for a memorable party.
But that was just the sort of game that this was from Canada. As soon as they failed to qualify in Costa Rica, part of the reason they weren’t too devastated by that result was because they knew that they’d get a chance to clinch at home now, kickstarting this party.
Right from the first whistle, their performance reflected that, too, as they came out with zero intention to leave anything in fate’s hands, instead choosing to take control of their own destiny.
Yet, that’s just been what this team has been all about since the start of this run. Knowing how wild this region can be, they’ve done a great job of taking care of business when it matters, and this game was just the perfect example of that.
And that’s what’s so different about this side now. Before, they’d often scrape through games, sometimes relying on luck to grab results, often showing up timid to these big matches.
Now, though, they come into these matches with the intention to wreak havoc, not content with just the status quo, but to blow right through it, too.
But that’s just one of many reasons why they are where they are, with a spot in Qatar, and that mentality is a big reason why.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s a dream come true,” Canada’s Lucas Cavallini said. “And we worked so hard to get to this stage. But it’s not over yet, we still have to play the World Cup, we’re gonna have a plan there and a lot of objectives so it’s not only just to go to the World Cup and participate, but to get the job done.”
Tactically, this was a strong game for Canada, as they came out with a clear, concise game plan, and that allowed them to cruise to a result.
Coming out in a simple 4-4-2, a slight change from their usual 3-5-2 that they’ve rocked, it really gave Canada a top-heavy threat, but one that Jamaica struggled to handle, especially defensively.
With the 4-4-2, there is always the worry that you won’t have enough in midfield to overwhelm your opponents, but the good news for Canada is that didn’t end up being a problem, as their wide players and forwards did very well to provide the support needed for this sort of formation.
As a result, it paved the way for a dominant offensive performance, as Jamaica just didn’t seem to have an answer for Canada’s incisive and decisive movement in the attack, leading to several quality chances in the final third.
And knowing that they were going to have a lot of the ball in this game, that was the right approach for Canada. Knowing that they didn’t just want to qualify, but give their fans plenty to cheer about, they struck a nice balance in terms of being able to attack in numbers, but not give up anything in transition.
Plus, speaking of that transition game, that’s another area where Canada really did well in this match, avoiding getting cooked by Jamaica’s speedy threats.
Despite sending forward a throng of players at the other end, Canada just continued to find a way to track back and close down space anytime it seemed like Jamaica might get away.
And because of all that, it really paved the way for a dominant Canadian performance, one where they just controlled the game at both ends, allowing them to deservingly get the result they so badly craved.
In fact, other than their finishing, this was about as complete a performance as Canada has had this Octo, and the fact that it came in such an important game is so fitting.
In the Mixer:
Otherwise, here are some bits and bobs that stood out from this one.
- Atiba Hutchinson coming off the bench, for his 93rd cap for Canada, to roars of ‘Atiba, Atiba, Atiba’, is everything that he deserves after all he’s given to this program. So fitting to think that he’ll now finally make his World Cup debut later this year.
- This was Canada’s biggest win this Octo, which considering the party atmosphere of this match, is fitting.
- Stephen Eustaquio told Sportsnet after the game that the best decision he ever made was to play for Canada instead of Portugal. Imagine a talented Canadian dual-national ever saying that 10 years ago? Shows how big of a shift this program has gone through recently.
- Cyle Larin scoring the winning goal for the game that sent Canada to the World Cup, just over a year after he scored the winning goal in their first game of this journey is so fitting.
- Time to book the tickets to Qatar, everyone…
But now, the mission is simple for Canadians – go out and enjoy this moment.
“Tonight’s a celebration,” Herdman said with a laugh. “Oh yeah, we’ll celebrate tonight”
Although it feels like it’s a sort of moment that will be easy to get used to in the future, it’s still special to have seen something like that happen, so it’s important to sit back and reflect on it.
And then, after that, it’s a good time to buckle up and prepare for what’s ahead, because as mentioned, this is just the start of what’s to come for this team.
This is just the start of what’s to come from this Canadian team, starting with their upcoming trip to Qatar, so don’t miss it, as it certainly feels like the sky’s the limit right now.
“We believed that eventually everything would come together,” Osorio said. “And watching that, we want you to believe, believe in yourself, as Canadian kids you can be whatever you want, you can be a footballer and you can be the best footballer in the world.”
Up Next: Canada vs Panama, Wednesday, March 30th, 2022, 18:05 PDT, 21:05 EDT (Estadio Rommel Fernandez, Panama City)