Canada books a spot at World Cup with convincing victory over Jamaica

The Canadian men’s national soccer team will be competing at the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986, clinching a berth with an emphatic 4-0 win against Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday

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The 36-year drought is over for Canada.

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The Canadian men’s national soccer team will be competing at the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986, clinching a berth at Qatar 2022 with an emphatic 4-0 victory against Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday.

Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and Junior Hoilett scored for Canada, who also benefited from a Jamaica own goal. The 2022 World Cup takes place from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18 in Qatar.

“After the final whistle, it felt so surreal, I never thought this would happen,” veteran midfielder Atiba Hutchinson said. “Just to know we had qualified for the World Cup is an amazing moment, and to have the fans behind us here at home, it’s just great.

“This means the world to me, this is always something I’ve dreamt of from the first moment I put on the Canadian jersey; to have the country behind us, and to be so far away from it at first, and be able to achieve this at the end of my career is an amazing feeling and I’d never thought I’d get to experience this.”

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The win kept Canada at the top of the eight-team final Concacaf qualifying group, ahead of the United States and Mexico. Canada concludes the 14-game qualifying tournament in Panama on Wednesday.

“My feelings are mixed tonight, after 36 years to do something like this, it’s just unbelievable,” goalkeeper Milan Borjan said. “I’m very proud to be part of this team, part of this brotherhood and it’s just amazing to accomplish something new for Canada, and not just for us, for the younger kids that are coming up; they’re going to look up to us and they’re going to try and be better than us.

“Now there is no going back. Now Canada has put its name out in the world and it has to just continue like this.”

The top three teams from the eight-team qualifying group earn an automatic berth into the World Cup, with the fourth-place finisher moving on to an intercontinental playoff against the Oceanic winner for an extra spot in Qatar.

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Canada was in top spot in the group despite losing 1-0 in Costa Rica on Thursday, its first defeat in the qualifiers.

Canada went into the game against Jamaica needing just a draw to secure at top-three spot, but were looking for more and were on the attack from the opening kickoff.

Larin gave Canada the lead in the 13th minute, taking a defence-splitting pass from Stephen Eustaquio and chipping the ball over a Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake.

“When the ball came across to Stephen, most of the time I know what he is going to do, and once he opened up, I made my curling run and I knew he was going to pass it there,” Larin said. “It reminded me of the goal I scored against the USA (in Hamilton), I made the run and put it in the net. It was a team goal, and it was a special goal for me.”

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Canada had opportunities to extend its lead on multiple occasions in the half with Jonathan David, Buchanan, Scott Kennedy and Larin coming agonizingly close to scoring.

Buchanan did eventually give Canada a 2-0 lead just before the end of the first half, turning in a cross from David, which fell to him at the far post.

The play began with Eustaquio swinging in a free kick into the Jamaica penalty area, which was cleared by defender Javain Brown but fell to David at the top of the box. He took it wide and cut it back across the net where it fell to Buchanan to tuck into the short side past Blake.

In the second half, Canada continued to control the game and Hoilett made it 3-0 in the 82nd minute, taking a pass from Buchanan and poking in a shot from the corner of the six-yard box.

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The fourth goal came with just over a minute to go in the game as Jamaican defender Adrian Mariappa scuffed a clearing attempt on a cross by Sam Adekugbe and had the ball ricochet into his own net.

“When I came in here at the start of this World Cup campaign, I looked around the locker room and with the talent and collective unity we had in the group, there was no reason why we should be able to be one of the top teams in this region and qualify for a World Cup,” fullback Alistair Johnston said. “I know from the outside looking at it, it seemed like a little bit of a pipe dream, but from the inside, we really felt that if we put our minds towards it, we could really do it.”

Along with earning a spot in the World Cup, the win practically guarantees Canada finishes first in the Concacaf qualifying group.

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Finishing first in the region will give Canada a more favorable draw at the World Cup, which takes place on April 1 in Doha, Qatar, to determine the groups for the 32-team tournament.

“This exact moment, we’re still at a loss for words what we’ve done here and what we’ve accomplished,” Johnston said. “Seeing that it’s only our second World Cup as a country, on the men’s side, it really puts things into perspective how special this is. I think once we see that World Cup draw and see what we’re going up against (in Qatar), that will really put things into perspective.”

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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