FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers Final Score: Canada 2-0 United States Goalscorers: Larin 7', Adekugbe 90+5'
Match in a minute or lessThe Canadian men's national team's magical World Cup Qualifying run had another spell to cast on Sunday afternoon, as they triumphed 2-0 in Hamilton, Ontario over the United States to extend their lead atop the Concacaf Octagonal round with just four matches left to play. Cyle Larin got the hosts on the board with a dream start just seven minutes in, as a quick piece of transitional linkup play worked like a charm to make it 1-0. Canada weathered a storm throughout the game, holding firm under pressure (with some help from goalkeeper Milan Borjan, of course) and keeping the Americans' high-profile attackers at bay. At last, on the absolute brink of the fulltime whistle, it was Samuel Adekugbe who delivered in spectacular fashion, seizing on a ball in the U.S. half and blasting a a strike from the top of the box past the visiting 'keeper to put the 2-0 result on ice.
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Directness in transition prompts dream Canadian startThe blueprint for Canada's success was always likely to be based on vertical movement and pace in transition. That's exactly how the Canadians found their goal off the top of the match; Kamal Miller judged the Tim Hortons Field wind better to pick off a lofted goal kick, and Jonathan Osorio made the intelligent tap forward for Jonathan David and Cyle Larin to connect. They had a few more opportunities in that fashion, particularly from Tajon Buchanan and Richie Laryea -- deployed out wide ahead of a four-man defensive line -- who used their pace to try and get on the end of balls to the flank areas. Midway through the second half, Buchanan had a wonderful chance on the break thanks to a long diagonal pass by David, though it ultimately came to nothing. The U.S. seemed to try and match Canada with some similar transitional attacks, but they didn't quite have the same urgency in getting upfield quickly and as such they couldn't turn the opportunities into real scoring chances or even touches in the penalty area on a consistent basis. The decision-making was a little curious in that respect; perhaps a more aggressive forward approach from the American forwards and from Weston McKennie might have caused more problems for Canada's defensive line. At last, it was that same directness that put Canada over the top. They were prepared for the Americans' heavy pressure as they chased the game, and as such they were well-positioned to punish on the counter-attack, with pacey players like Tajon Buchanan and Sam Adekugbe looking for an opportunity to strike. They had a couple solid opportunities -- in fact, Adekugbe had one shot from distance just moment before his goal after an excellent piece of skill by Junior Hoilett along the right touchline, in a moment that closely mirrored the one that ended the game. It was Canada's ruthlessness going forward that made the difference for them in attack.
Physicality helps disrupt dominant American midfieldThe United States' much-lauded midfield trio of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Tyler Adams was always going to be a focal point for the Canadians to defend against. John Herdman opted to play only two central midfielders, in Mark-Anthony Kaye and Jonathan Osorio -- perhaps due to necessity, with Stephen Eustáquio unavailable, Atiba Hutchinson unable to play after 90 minutes in Honduras, and Sam Piette nursing an ankle injury. Certainly, the Americans had the better of the midfield fight for the most part, although their own possession often filtered toward the wide areas. The moments where they did cause problems through the middle, though, were concerning -- especially since they mostly sprung from poor giveaways through the centre from Canada's own midfielders. For the most part in the first half, Canada managed to prevent the U.S. from developing much flow by disrupting things as much as possible with their physicality. Though McKennie in particular seemed to be running freely through the centre when he jumped on those loose balls, Alistair Johnston and Steven Vitória in particular clearly had the green light to stand their ground rather than step back, knocking opponents off the ball with shoulder-to-shoulder challenges. Kaye certainly had a shaky outing in that Canadian double-pivot, responsible for a few of the more egregious giveaways, so it wasn't surprising to see Herdman make a change. After Liam Fraser's commendable shift in Honduras on Thursday, he got the call again around the 65th minute. Fraser did well, though the U.S. didn't really attack through the middle very frequently in the final half hour of the game. Still, it was physicality and strength that helped Canada hold onto the clean sheet -- they were consistently able to win balls in the air and to outmuscle their opponents for 50-50 balls.
Resilient, courageous Canadians continue extraordinary march toward QatarVery little can be said about this Canada team that hasn't already. They have 22 points in the Concacaf table, five more than anyone else (before Sunday night's games, albeit). They are undefeated in World Cup Qualifying, and they've won five straight -- beating the United States and Mexico along the way. At times like these, rather than digging in too deep to the tactics, it's important to take a moment and reflect. This is the same men's national team program that, not too long ago, wasn't guaranteed to get out of its group at the Gold Cup. To do what they did on Sunday afternoon -- without the best player in Concacaf -- is an astonishing testament to the leaps and bounds this team has made under John Herdman. Sunday's victory was not necessarily the most attractive, nor the most decisive that Canada has had in this cycle. It was, however, perhaps the most symbolic. At Tim Hortons Field -- a site that, not so long ago, hosted the final of a domestic league that did not exist during the last World Cup Qualifying cycle -- the Canadians finally found a moment of ascendancy over their archrivals. Canada certainly faced pressure in this match -- a lot of it, with the Americans claiming 64% possession and 13 shots (though only three were on target, another testament to the defensive organization). Milan Borjan was asked after the game, as a longtime veteran of the Canadian national team program, what exactly has prompted this shift and dramatic rise in just a couple years. "I can say just two words," he said. "John Herdman." Indeed, the Englishman deserves no end of credit for how this side's mentality has shifted. And on Sunday, it was really their mentality that carried them. Despite the kitchen sink thrown at them, Canada never once shied away from a physical battle -- all the while staying locked into their defensive positioning. They refused to give an inch of turf away easily, and ultimately they were rewarded. At this point, it's becoming clear: Qatar beckons. Frankly, it may not be long before we're wondering just how long Canada can stick around there next November.
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchSam Adekugbe, Canada Would've been a serious candidate here even without the stoppage-time heroics; Adekugbe stepped up yet again for Canada. He was fearless defensively, handling the very real American threat very capably. He made a few vital blocks, including one with his face in stoppage time, before putting the final nail in the coffin.
What’s next?Canada will now head back down to Central America, where they'll take on El Salvador at Estadio Cuscatlán this Wednesday, February 2 (9:00 pm ET). Watch all matches live on OneSoccer. In addition to its website and app, OneSoccer is now available on TELUS channel 980 and on Fubo TV. Call your local cable provider to ask for OneSoccer today.