Canada ends 36-year absence and takes a spot in Qatar World Cup

Star of the match Tajon Buchanan does the flip

Canada celebrated the sport of soccer Sunday as the Canadian men won qualification to the 2022 World Cup.

They did it in style, hammering an outmatched Jamaican side 4-0 on a frigid day at BMO Field to improve their CONCACAF qualifying record to 14-1-4 over three rounds and end a 36-year absence from the men’s soccer showcase.

“I think this country, they never believed in us. Because we’ve given them nothing to believe in,” said coach John Herdman, the architect of the Canadian men’s success. “They believe now.

“We are the best team in CONCACAF,” said midfielder Jonathan Osorio.

“Now people believe,” added the Toronto FC veteran, shivering in the cold. “And it’s incredible how much people believe. And it’s only going to get

Players celebrate

better. Now we want to go to a World Cup and really make a statement.”

Canada, which only needed a draw Sunday to qualify, has outscored its opposition 54-7 while posting 12 clean sheets in qualifying.

Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and Junior Hoilett scored as the Canadians had their way with the Reggae Boyz before a loud and proud sellout crowd of 29,122. A Jamaican own goal in the 88th minute padded the score. And the margin of victory could have been far more lopsided.

For Herdman, who led the Canadian women to back-to-back Olympic bronze before taking over the men’s team in January 2018, it was a tipping point.

“A women’s team that’s won an Olympic gold. What more can we ask for? It’s time.”

Canada dominated from the get-go, stacking scoring chances like firewood. The home side was up 1-0 after 13 minutes and 2-0 at the break. It

Coach John Herdman

could have been 4-0 midway through the first half when the sun made its first appearance.

Jamaica (1-7-5, eight points) spent the afternoon in reverse. The game was done and dusted after the first half.

The historic win came 37 years after Canada qualified for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico with a 1-0 victory over Honduras on Sept. 14, 1985, in St. John’s, N.L. That marked the Canadian men’s lone trip to the soccer showcase, where they lost all three games without scoring a goal.

On a cold day, Canada came out hot and was rewarded for its dominance in the 13th minute when, after a lightning-fast counter-attack, Hoilett squared the ball to Stephen Eustáquio who threaded the needle to put Larin behind the defence. The Besiktas forward calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Andre Blake for his 24th goal for Canada, extending his national men’s scoring record.

Buchanan made it 2-0 in the 44th minute as Jamaica failed to deal with a free kick that the Club Brugge winger had earned after being chopped down in

Canada’s Sam Adekugbe in action with Jamaica’s keeper Tarick Ximines

the midst of several stepovers. A defender headed Eustáquio’s free kick away but it went straight to Jonathan David, whose cross dropped at Buchanan’s feet in front of goal.

Hoilett made it 3-0 in the 83rd after Buchanan nicked the ball off a defender following a corner and fed the veteran Hoilett, who slashed through the penalty box and beat Blake for his 14th goal for Canada.

Adrian Mariappa’s failed attempt at a clearance off a Sam Adekugbe cross ended up in the Jamaican goal to make it 4-0.

The top three teams qualify for Qatar as representatives of North and Central America and the Caribbean while the fourth-place finisher takes on an Oceania side in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.

Thursday marked the four-year anniversary of Herdman’s first game in charge of the men, a 1-0 win over New Zealand in Murcia, Spain, before just 75 people. His record at the men’s helm now stands at 29-7-4 with the only losses to the U.S. (twice), Mexico (twice), Costa Rica, Haiti and Iceland.

The Canadian men were ranked 73rd in the world, compared to No. 47 for Jamaica, when they started World Cup qualifying in March 2021. Today Canada is 33rd while Jamaica is No. 62.