What a night at Commonwealth Stadium! It had been 21 years since Canada’s men’s soccer team last defeated their Mexican counterparts, and 31 years since Canada won against Mexico on Canadian soil. If ever there was a time to break that streak, this was that time for this generation to truly make a statement to the rest of CONCACAF and the world at large, that Canada has a team to be reckoned with.
In front of a passionate crowd of 44,212 at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, Canadian captain Atiba Hutchinson lead out his team and in the process became the Men’s National team’s most capped ever making his 90th appearance for Les Rouges (or perhaps more appropriately on this occasion, Les Noirs).
Canada had the conditions they wanted, it has snowed all day and the temperature was well below freezing at the time of kickoff, Edmonton had done its part, now it was up to the players on the field. The game got off to a chirpy start with both teams exchanging plenty of fouls in the opening minutes before Canada began to take a foothold of the game.
First, Tajon Buchanan made a dynamic run towards Mexico’s 18-yard box but his through ball for Richie Laryea had just too much pace on it. The pressure continued when Sam Adekugbe‘s cross was desperately cleared out from the Mexico six-yard box and just a few minutes later, Cyle Larin managed to get a shot on target after Canada worked the ball inside Mexico’s penalty area.
Mexico failed to cause Canada any problems in an opening 45 minutes that was seeing Canada grow more confident, and their play was rewarded in first-half stoppage time. Alistair Johnston won the ball in midfield and hit a shot on the half volley towards Mexico’s goal, Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa made the save but could only parry the ball into the path of Cyle Larin who placed the ball into the net igniting wild celebrations from the home crowd. Canada went into half-time 1-0 up, and 45 minutes away from a legendary result.
With momentum behind them, Canada began the second half strong and looked to make their lead more commanding. In the 50th minute, Canada had a free-kick from their left wing which was flighted into the box beautifully by Stephen Eustáquio that caught the Mexican defenders off guard. Man of the moment, Cyle Larin once again found himself at the right place at the right time to get a foot on the ball and guide it past the flat-footed Ochoa. On a night where history for being made, Larin had made his own mark for Canada, equalling Dwayne De Rosario’s record of most Canadian Men’s National Team goals with his 22nd goal for his country, and his 14th strike in 2021 for Canada in what has been an outstanding year for the Brampton native.
Now 2-0 down, Mexico began to show some incentive, they managed to get some shots on Canada’s goal but their efforts were easily saved by Canada keeper Milan Borjan. As the game was coming to a close, you could be forgiven for thinking it was all over, but nobody told Mexico that. In the 89th minute, Mexico’s Jesús Manuel Corona crossed the ball in from the right perfectly for his striker Héctor Herrera to head the ball into the bottom right corner giving Borjan no chance and setting up a nervy last five minutes for Canada.
Mexico now had new life and was willing to throw everything at the Canadian goal. Their best chance came from a corner in the 92nd minute, Andrés Guardado produced a deadly delivery from a corner that made its way to Jorge Sánchez who almost succeeded in bundling the ball over the line, but Borjan made a great save at the last second to preserve the lead. Mexico would continue to pressure the Canadian goal but the Canadian defence stood strong and rode out the storm, the cheers from the crowd when Canada finally cleared the ball could’ve been mistaken for a goal celebration such was the tension in Edmonton. All of Canada could relax and celebrate a few moments later however when the referee blew for full time, Canada had won the game 2-1.
It was Canada’s first win over Mexico since 2000, their first win over Mexico on Canadian soil since 1990, and their first win over Mexico in a world cup qualifier since 1976. It cannot be emphasized enough how much of a marquee moment this is for Canadian soccer, Canada didn’t just beat Mexico, they took the game to them and deserved to win on the night. Canada has now taken 4 points off Mexico in this qualifying campaign and thanks to the USA tying 1-1 with Jamaica, now sit alone at the summit of the CONCACAF 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifying group. There’s no knowing what the limit is on this exciting team as they inch ever closer to that elusive first World Cup appearance since 1986 and with the momentum they have behind them, who would dare to tell them that they can’t?