Canada is gearing up for The World Cup this upcoming November but first, they have to play their first two matches in CONCACAF’s Nation League where they are grouped with Curacao and Honduras. This will be the second Nations league in history and the U.S.A. will be defending their title after beating Canada out of their group on goal difference and beating Mexico in the finals with a score of 3-2. Leading into this Nation league, and in just a couple of months, the World Cup was going to take Canada around the world and see how they have done in history.
1973-1977 CONCACAF Championship
With Canada’s home confederation being CONCACAF I can’t exactly go over every game and country Canada has played within it. So we’re going to focus on specific tournaments in the region Canada has played in and see how they have done on CONCACAF’s biggest stages and staying away from the World Cup qualifiers as well, unless the tournament’s reward was a spot at a world cup. Spoiler alert they have made The World Cup twice.
Canada’s first-ever official game was in 1924 when they fell 3-2 to Australia. They would have to wait 33 years before playing in their first match that wasn’t a friendly, and then wait another 15 years to play in a tournament inside CONCACAF. That brings us to the 1973 Concacaf Championship. Both in the ’73 and ’77 qualifiers, Canada was in a three-team group with the U.S.A. and Mexico.
Canada would fail to qualify in 1973, coming second in the group but only the top team went on to the tournament. Just like the 1973 tournament, Canada had to play in the group with Mexico and the U.S.A., that just how it was back then you had to conquer the north before playing the rest of the region. But unlike last time two teams were able to move on to the next round. Once again Mexico finished top of the table leaving it between Canada and the Americans.
Canada drew one and lost one in their matches against the States but was actually able to pull off a 1-0 over Mexico after a goal found the back of the net in the 32nd minute, scored by Buzz Parsons. They went on to tie Mexico in their last match with a score of 0-0, which left Canada and the U.S.A. not just tied on points, but on goal differential as well. Being tied on both points and goal differential, Canada had to play one more game versus the Americans, with the winner moving on to the 1977 CONCACAF Championship. Being played in Haiti due to the game being played in December, Canada came on top and came away with a massive 3-0 to see them move on to the final stage for the first time in their history.
Canada was one of six teams to head to Mexico and to fight amongst the best in the region. This was the first time Canada has played some of these countries, and they were looking to make a good impression and lift their first trophy in history. Canada was set to open their tournament against El Salvador who was no CONCACAF rookie. El Salvador had never won the tournament either, but they had reached the finals before. El Salvador pulled away with a 2-1 win, but Canada still had four games left, they weren’t out of it yet, and picked up some hope after beating Suriname 2-1 at Azteca with another goal from Buzz Parsons. Buzz continued to be a leading force behind Canada scoring another goal in a 2-1 win against Guatemala.
With two games left Canada still had to play defending champs in Haiti and have one more game against Mexico. This tournament had no knockout rounds it was all table-based and the winner of the table took home the trophy. With two games left, Canada sat tied for second along with Haiti and El Salvador, with Mexico at the top but also having played one more game than the rest. Canada went into their match against Haiti with both teams needing a win to stand a chance at winning the championship. They both came away with a point in a 1-1 draw. Haiti had looked to pull away with a win after scoring in the 78th minute, but Canada came back in the 90th minute with a goal from Mike Bakić scoring his second goal of the tournament.
With the draw, Canada had fallen out of the race for the championship but had brought Haiti down with them. Canada would go on to lose their final match in a 3-1 game against Mexico leading to their third Concacaf championship. Canada would leave with a 2-1-2 record and good enough for fourth, tied with El Salvador. For their first time at a major tournament, Canada made the impression they were looking to make, and put their name on the map in the region.
1981-1985 Concacaf Championship
Canada came into the ’80s not looking just to qualify again for their second straight tournament, but to win one. After an impressive showing at the 1977 CONCACAF championship, Canada came into the 1981 qualifiers as a threat to watch out for.
Canada didn’t just qualify for the 1981 tournament, but for the first time, they topped the table. Just like the two previous tournaments, Canada had to play the U.S.A. and Mexico first, and the two top teams will come out of the north and move on to the final stage of the tournament. Canada opened the tournament with a 1-1 draw with Mexico, thanks to a goal from Mike Stojanović in the 43rd minute to open the scoring. Canada ended up drawing three of their four matches, with their only win coming against the Americans in a 2-1 win in Vancouver. With a 1-3-0 record Canada would move on to their second straight CONCACAF Championship.
Looking to improve on their last performance at the tournament, Canada went into Honduras with a positive mindset after topping Mexico and the United States in the group stage. Canada and Mexico would be making their return along with Haiti and El Salvador. With newcomers being Cuba and host nation Honduras, who still had to qualify in their own table, where they finished first. Like last time this was a table set tournament, the country at the top of the table will walk away as champions of CONCACAF.
Canada started off strong with a 1-0 over El Salvador after a late goal from Stojanović in the 90th minute to put them ahead. With another goal from Stojanović, Canada was able to walk away with another point in a 1-1 draw with Haiti. Next for the Reds, was Honduras. Throughout Canada’s soccer history, Honduras is a team that will pop up and be a thorn in Canada’s side over and over again, but this is the first time they ever met. Canada let in an early goal in the 12th minute, but with a goal from Ian Bridge in the 19th minute, they bounced right back to tie the game. Honduras got a late goal in the first half and closed down the game in the final 45 minutes. Canada saw their first disappointing loss to the Hondurans in a 2-1 final and unfortunately, won’t be their last.
Canada went on to finish the tournament getting ties with Mexico and Cuba to finish fourth in the table once again, and watch Honduras come out on top. With a 1-3-1 record Canada, in a way, did better than the previous tournament even though finishing in the same spot as last time, losing just one game which came from the hands of the champion. Canada continued to show growth in CONCACAF
It’s been two years since Canada finished fourth at CONCACAF Championship, and things weren’t looking so good. Since the tournament, Canada had only won three of their matches out of their last 21. After losing all of their games in 1983 and winning just one game in 1984, Canada was looking like they may not even qualify for the next CONCACAF Championship. For the first time in Canada’s history, they don’t have to start the tournament against Mexico and the United States, which could be a good thing considering last time Canada played Mexico, they lost 5-0. With no Mexico in this year’s tournament, this left Canada drawn in a two-leg matchup versus Jamaica.
All Canada had to do to qualify for their fourth straight tournament was get results in two matches instead of four. And they did, Canada qualified for the 1985 Concacaf Championship, except not by beating Jamaica, or even drawing their games and winning on away goals. They did it without even playing a game. Jamaica withdrew from the tournament which had Canada automatically qualify for the next stage of the tournament.
Canada was put into a group along with Haiti and Guatemala to start the first round. Playing both teams twice, the winner of the group would advance to the final round of the tournament. The Reds kicked off the first round beating Haiti 2-0 and followed up with another victory over Guatemala with a score of 2-1. Going into their last two games, Canada only needed one point to secure their spot in the next round, and they did just that picking up 1 point in a 1-1 draw versus Guatemala. Already clinching their spot in the next round, Canada finished up the group with a 2-0 over Haiti.
Moving on to the next round, Canada was put into another group with the other two teams that topped theirs. Costa Rica and Honduras both squeezed out of their groups with identical 2-2-0 records. The final stage, like the rest, was table-based, the team at the top of the table at the end lifts the trophy and then qualifies for the 1986 World Cup
With a 1-1 draw over Costa Rica, Canada was set to play another important fixture against the Hondurans. This time it was different though with Canada coming out on top with a 1-0 win. Going into their last two matches and Canada now top-of-the-table things were looking good. Canada picked up their second draw of the final stage with a 0-0 score line versus Costa Rica, still undefeated Canada would go back home to try and close out their tournament on top. With just one point over the Hondurans, Canada needed just one point in Newfoundland to win the CONCACAF Championship and to qualify for their first-ever World Cup. At the 60th minute in the game Canada was looking okay with things all tied up at one, but things would turn from good to great in just a minute.
With a corner coming to Canada in the 61st minute the ball was put into the near post and finds the head of Igor Vrablic which then finds the back of the net. Canada wins 2-1, for the first time in their history they lift a trophy and see themselves heading to the World Cup.
The Disappointing 90’s
After qualifying for their first World Cup (which I’ll go over more in future Articles with Canada versus the world), Canada was on top of CONCACAF. Even though not doing so well at the World Cup, Canada was still top dogs back at home, so they thought. Two years after the World Cup, it was time to qualify once again for the CONCACAF Championship. Getting a bye to the second round of qualifiers, Canada was set to take on Guatemala in a two-leg series. Fresh off a win against Cuba, Guatemala was looking for revenge over Canada after Canada knocked them out of the last tournament. Guatemala took the first leg beating Canada 1-0. The Canadians bounced back with a 3-2 victory in the second leg, but failed to qualify because of away goals. For the first time since 1977, Canada missed out on the tournament and wasn’t able to defend its title in the final stage.
The ’90s brought disappointment to Canadian soccer and its fans. They looked like they were the real deal, and were becoming a household name in CONCACAF, but that was all fading away. Canada would go on to win the 1990 NAFC Championship, but that was only a two-game tournament, one versus the Americans and the other versus the Mexicans. Canada would go on to lose the same tournament the following year which would end up being the last time the NAFC Championship would be played.
In 1991, the CONCACAF Championship would rebrand to the Gold Cup, which is what the tournament is still known as today. For the first time, the tournament was not just table-based, and the winner of each group would go on to a knockout stage. The Gold Cup winner was also not guaranteed a World Cup spot anymore, that would be a separate competition. This would also be Canada’s first time automatically qualifying for the tournament. They were placed into a group with Mexico, Jamaica, and, of course, Honduras. Each team would play each other once, and the top two teams would move on to the knockout stage.
Canada fell 4-2 in their first game against Honduras, growing that rivalry even more. Canada also lost their second game as well to Mexico, scoring just one goal in a 3-1 defeat. That loss took them out of the competition which meant their 3-2 win over the Jamaicans didn’t mean much.
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After failing to qualify two times in a row for the final stage of their regional tournament, Canada went on to have a good run trying to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, missing out with a loss in a playoff knockout match against Australia. Canada would shake that off and try to bounce back in the 1993 Gold Cup. Just like the last tournament Canada would automatically qualify and be placed into a group with Martinique, Costa Rica, and once again, Mexico. Canada would go on to only lose one match out of their three in the group stage, which came to the mighty hands of Mexico in an 8-0 defeat. Canada would only pull draws in their other two games, which meant for the second time in a row, Canada was kicked out in the group stage, and for the third time, did not get to the final stage.
Canada would go into the first and only Carabina Cup in 1995. Just like the NAFC Championship, there were just three teams and two games. Canada would go on to win the tournament, beating Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Canada would leave the ’90s just like the trends that came with it. Coming into the 1996 gold cup with another automatic spot, they were thrown into a group of three instead of four.
The top team would advance to the knockout stage. The reds were drawn into a group with a common foe in Honduras and Brazil. Even though Brazil plays in CONMEBOL (South America region of FIFA), they were the special guest of this year’s tournament, which now is nothing new, having Qatar play in the 2021 Gold Cup. Each team had two games, one against the other, and Canada came second in the group after beating Honduras but losing to Brazil 4-1. So once again Canada goes out early and looks forward to the new century looking to leave the ’90s behind them.
2000 Gold Cup
Looking to improve on from the ’90s and get back on the pace from the ’80s, Canada started the year off playing for another Gold Cup. The 2000 Gold Cup saw three more teams come into the competition as special invites, these teams being South Korea from Asia, as well as Peru and Colombia from South America. With never coming out of the group stage in the Gold Cup era, Canada had to qualify in a group with Haiti, Cuba, and El Salvador.
With the two top teams moving onto the Gold Cup, Canada was able to finish top of the group with a 2-1-0 record. Moving on to the next round with Haiti, Canada was placed into a new group with Costa Rica and special guests South Korea. All eyes were on South Korea with them getting ready to host the next World Cup in 2002 with Japan. Canada didn’t lose a single game in the group stage, but neither did anyone else. All three teams came out of the group with a 0-2-0 record, which was good enough for Canada to get second in the table and for them to move on to the knockout round, all because of a coin toss.
Canada and South Korea had the exact same stats in the two games, so it came down to a coin flip and with it going in Canada’s favour, they moved on with Costa Rica. Coming second in the group, Canada had to play the first seed team in group C, which ended up being Mexico. Canada has had success against Mexico in the past, but in recent years, not so much and with not winning a single game things didn’t look good for Canada. After falling 1-0 in the 35th Mexican goal, Canada was able to rally back late in the game with a goal in the 83rd minute by Carlo Corazzin to tie the game. Going into extra time the Gold Cup adapted the golden goal rule, the first goal wins it all. Five minutes into extra time Canada’s Richard Hastings scored his only goal in his international career to carry Canada onto the next round.
After a massive upset in the tournament, Canada’s next game in the semi-finals was Trinidad and Tobago. With another late goal in the match coming in the 68th minute, Canada scored to take the lead and hold onto it, to find themselves in their first finals of CONCACAF championships since their win in 1985. Waiting for them in the finals was another special guest, Columbia. Also struggling early on in the tournament this seemed like an unlikely final, but both teams ground their way to the finals in Los Angeles.
Putting a goal in right before halftime time, Canada looked to go into the second half to shut down the Columbians. Keeping the ball out of their own net, Canada kept up the pressure and won a penalty in the 65th minute. With Corazzin putting away the penalty, Canada went up 2-0 which we saw as the final score. Canada would lift their second major trophy in their history, and be back on top of CONCACAF thanks to a coin.
Looking to defend their title in the 2002 Gold Cup, Canada saw an automatic spot in the tournament. South Korea was invited back to this tournament along with new face Ecuador who saw themselves in Canada’s group with Haiti. Once again two of the three teams would move on to the next round, and once again, Canada benefited from a coin toss. Beating Haiti 2-0 and then Haiti doing the same, beating Ecuador, the last game between Canada and Ecuador had to finish in anything but a 2-0 for Ecuador. Last time Canada had to beat one team on the coin flip but after losing 2-0 this coin toss was between all three teams in the group, and once again Canada, pulled through in the coin toss along with Haiti to move on to the knock out round.
Canada would go on to beat Martinique in the first knockout round to find themselves in their second straight semi-finals. Canada got into the semis ready to defend its title against the Americans. Looking to punch their ticket to the finals, Canada put in a solid performance to keep the United States off the score sheet all match, but unfortunately, was unable to find their own goal. Going into penalties, Canada still struggled to find the net, only scoring on two of their kicks which lead to them being eliminated from the tournament. Canada would go on and place third in the tournament after beating South Korea 2-1. This would be the last time Canada placed in a major tournament which will lead to 20 years of bad luck.
Canada would fail to get out of the group stage in the 2005 Gold Cup, and make it to the semis once again in 2007 but lose out to the United States once again. Canada looked for redemption in the 2009 Gold Cup and even got out of the group stage, but lost in the first knockout round to Honduras losing 1-0. 2011 saw Canada fall out in the group stage again to the United States of America and Panama, and then not get a single win in 2013. 2015 saw similar results, but this was the first time ever the Gold Cup came to Canada. Even though just one of Canada’s games was played in Canada, they have still co-hosted the tournament and their faithful came down to that last game versus Costa Rica. Canada needing the win came out with a 0-0 after a Canadian goal was ruled offside which many would have debated at the time. Going home or staying home in this case early once again Canada was looking for hope in their future.
The 2017 Gold Cup saw some of Canada’s stars that we know today start to come on the scene. With Alphonso Davies scoring three goals in the group we would see Canada move onto the knockout round where they would lose in the first round 2-1 to Jamaica. Canada’s future looked bright in Davies with him winning the Golden boot as well as the best young player of the tournament.
2019 turned out to be a busy year for Canada. Being a part of two major tournaments this year, Canada would play in the Gold Cup and the first-ever CONCACAF Nations League. After Canada beat French Guiana in the Nations League qualifier with a score of 4-1, Canada found themselves in a group with Cuba and the U.S.A. Before Canada would have to play those matches though, they would play in the Gold Cup. Being in a group with Mexico, Martinique, and Cuba. With Mexico looking to be the toughest match for Canada would fly to play the other two teams beating Martinique 4-0 and Cuba 7-0. Canada would lose 3-1 to Mexico but still move on to the first knockout round to play Haiti.
Canada would go up 2-0 in the first 30 minutes of the match looking to secure their spot in the next round. The second half came and we saw Haiti in a new light, running all over Canada and found themselves three goals in 26 min to take the lead and kick Canada out of the Gold Cup, leading to one of the biggest disappointments in Canadian soccer modern history. On the plus side, Jonathan David came away from the tournament with the Gold Boot with six goals.
Looking to bounce back in the Nations league, Canada would pick up back-to-back wins over Cuba. Leaving their last two games to come down to the United States. The winner of these two games would move on to the next round and look to hold the first Nations League trophy above their heads. Canada would go on to pull a massive upset beating America 2-0 in Toronto. Going into the final game the pressure was on Canada to bring the performance they just did on home soil to American soil. The Americans answered back strong, putting four goals behind Canadian keeper Milan Borjan defeating the Reds 4-1. The Americans would go on and beat Cuba 4-0, taking over Canada for first on goal differential.
Canada would go on to another semi-final in the 2021 Gold Cup where they would lose to Mexico with a score of 2-1. Canadian forward Tajon Buchanan would tie the game in the 57th minute. Canada held the draw looking to move onto extra time, but with a controversial 14 minutes added to the end of the match due to the Mexican fans’ disgusting showing, Mexico was able to find a late winner scoring in the 9th minute added to the end of the 90.
Canada has had a decent run in their history. They are a fair match in their own region and have been throughout history sporadically. Canada reached their limit in the ’80s and has had troubles since then, until now. 2022 is the new peak for Canada, people all around the world are talking about them, and not just the fans at home. Canada is on a rise where winning trophies in their own region wont come as to surprise anymore as it may have back in 2000. With Stars like Davies and David, look out for them to bring home some silverware in the upcoming Nations League and future Gold Cups, adding more chapters to this amazing history.
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