John Herdman’s side is the last unbeaten team standing in the CONCACAF World Cup 2022 Qualifiers as Canada recorded a comfortable 1-0 win over Costa Rica in front of a historically loud and passionate home crowd at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
Just over 48,800 fans braved the cold Friday night to watch Canada take on Costa Rica, the third-highest attendance ever for a Canadian men’s soccer game and the home team was in the mood to give the crowd something to cheer early on.
In the 14th minute, Canada got the ball out left to Liam Miller who played the ball into the box perfectly for Alphonso Davies to run on to and the hometown kid was only just denied a goal thanks to a last-ditch block from Costa Rican defender Oscar Duarte. The clearance lead to a corner, and a deadly delivery into the box was met by a Costa Rican defender who headed the ball off his own crossbar.
Canada would dominate the ball in the first half, but that didn’t mean they weren’t any scares at the back. In the 29th minute, some good play from the visitors in the midfield culminated in a ball played up to striker José Ortiz who did well to control the ball and work some space with two Canadian defenders around him and his shot on the edge of the box went just wide of the goal. Just afterwards on the 35th minute, Costa Rica had a freekick which was initially blocked but Canada failed to clear the ball, a Costa Rican cross was again cleared free from danger but the ball landed at the feet of Youstin Salas who showed great skill to strike a volleyed shot towards goal, forcing Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan into a diving save to his right.
Canada settled down after that and continued to dominate possession going into halftime. The halftime team talk from John Herdman may have been influenced by Panama rallying from a 2-0 deficit in Honduras to win 3-2, which meant as things stood, Canada would be level on points with Panama for the final automatic World Cup qualification spot. If it wasn’t already, the match against Costa Rica had definitely become a must-win game.
Canada started the second half just as brightly as they started the first, 53 minutes in Tajon Buchanan won the ball back in midfield and Canada wasted no time going on the attack, the ball was worked from the left wing to the edge of the box where Mark-Anthony Kaye’s shot was deflected up into the air into the path of Buchanan before any Cost Rica players could react, Buchanan demonstrated world-class ability to pull off a bicycle kick to send the ball goal bound where Canada where again denied by the crossbar.
Canada at this point where desperately knocking at the door for a goal, and their efforts would soon be rewarded. In the 56th minute, it was Costa Rica’s turn to not clear their lines after a free-kick, the ball then found its way out wide where Stephen Eustáquio’s flighted ball into the box looked to have been caught by Costa Rica’s goalkeeper Leonel Moreira.
Moreira, who was playing in relief for injured starting goalkeeper Keylor Navas fumbled the ball however and it landed perfectly at the feet of Canadian forward Jonathan David who made no mistake and slotted the ball in the net sending the Edmonton crowd into a frenzy. It was David’s 18th goal in just 23 games for his country and arguably his most important to date. Canada had finally broken the visitors down and held a well-deserved 1-0 going into the final half-hour of play.
Canada kept their foot on the gas, coming close again in the 60th minute from a corner forcing Morerira into saving a header at his bottom left corner, 5 minutes later Canada worked the ball again well on the wing, full back Sam Adekuge got himself into space on the left and played a great ball into the box that found its way to the path of Alphonso Davies who unfortunately couldn’t keep his shot down.
Canada we’re rising to the occasion, and in the 79th minute put the ball in the back of the net again from a Davies freekick but it was rightfully ruled out for offside. The end of game barrage from Costa Rica never materialized as Canada played out the last 10 minutes plus stoppage time with relative ease sparking joyous scenes at the final whistle.
As recently as 2014, Costa Rica were penalty kicks away from the World Cup Semi-Final while Canada ranked a historically low 122nd in the Fifa rankings. Now here they are, unbeaten 7 games into the CONCACAF Octagonal and easily could’ve beaten the visitors by more.
Up next for Canada is a strong test again Mexico again in Edmonton. Canada will have nothing to fear against the region’s traditional soccer powerhouse after a 1-1 in Mexico earlier in the campaign and have the incentive that a win takes them above Mexico in the standings.
It’s a great time to be a Canadian soccer fan, and all eyes for sure will be on Commonwealth Stadium on Tuesday hoping Les Rouges can make it 6 points out of six.