FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers Canada vs. Jamaica March 27, 2022 at 4:00 pm ET BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario Watch live on OneSoccer, TELUS Ch. 980, and Sportsnet
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MATCH PREVIEWThe Canadian men's national has another chance to secure its spot at the FIFA World Cup on Sunday, as they return to Toronto's BMO Field to play Jamaica in their final home match of the Concacaf qualification campaign. A win or draw for Canada would officially clinch a trip to the World Cup for the first time since 1986, and John Herdman's team is laser-focused on taking care of business at home before their final qualifier on Wednesday in Panama. They missed out on their clinching moment several days ago with a 1-0 loss on the road in Costa Rica, which was the first defeat this side has suffered in the entire qualification cycle. This time, though, they won't be keen on waiting any longer to book their ticket to Qatar. Canada have been very good at home in qualifying so far, with five consecutive wins and just one draw -- their first game of the Octagonal, against Honduras. At BMO Field specifically, Canada defeated both El Salvador and Panama by three-goal margins, which helped build up the excellent goal differential that gives Canada an even greater cushion above the other sides. As far as major absences go, Canada only have a few. Several key players -- Alphonso Davies and Samuel Piette in particular -- missed out on this window, and a couple others in camp are carrying knocks. Steven Vitoria was unable to play in Costa Rica, and Junior Hoilett was limited to about 20 minutes off the bench; it remains to be seen whether either will have recovered enough to contribute against Jamaica. Herdman told media on Saturday that Vitoria will need to undergo a fitness test on Sunday morning to determine if he's able to play, but it appears the rest of the squad has come through Thursday in good health. Only one player is suspended for Canada, with Mark-Anthony Kaye set to miss out after his red card in the first half against Costa Rica. The Jamaicans haven't had the smoothest run in the Octagonal, having been mathematically eliminated from World Cup contention in the previous window in January. They have one win, five draws, and six losses so far, currently sitting seventh in the eight-team table just ahead of Honduras. Still, the Reggae Boyz can be a tough opponent. They certainly were the last time they played against Canada, having held them to a 0-0 draw in Kingston back in October. Although coach Paul Hall won't be able to call on the full strength of his player pool, with the likes of Michail Antonio and Kemar Roofe not named to the squad, there's still plenty of talent in the group. Regardless of opponent, though, this day could well be a special one for Canada. They control their own destiny, knowing that just a point would be enough to send them officially to the World Cup. "You've got to keep it in perspective, but they could do something amazing," Herdman told reporters. "That was at the beginning of the camp, we laid out the map of what this could really mean to define what new Canada is. Coming out of Costa Rica, it was the gut punch we needed to get back down to Earth, get your feet on the ground, let's get this done. Let's just get back to business."
3 THINGS TO WATCH
What threat does Jamaica pose?Although the Jamaicans are eliminated from World Cup qualification, they're unlikely to be pushovers in this game. This window, they didn't call up West Ham United striker Michail Antonio or Rangers forward Kemar Roofe, opting for a more North America-based squad, but the Reggae Boyz certainly have plenty of dangerous players nonetheless. Their greatest threat is likely Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey, who has yet to truly make his mark on the Jamaican team but his ability to stretch the game and strike on the counter-attack is something for Canada to be wary of. Beyond Bailey, Jamaica will hope for some attacking contribution from Queens Park Rangers forward Andre Gray, who scored in their 1-1 draw against El Salvador on Thursday. In the middle, 29-year-old Ravel Morrison of Derby County is a formidable presence as well. "We know Jamaica, this is a team that can play with freedom," Herdman said on Saturday. "It's a team that's going to have young, hungry players that want to prove themselves for their country... It's got to be front foot from the first whistle." The Jamaicans will look to frustrate Canada's attack as much as possible and perhaps strike on the counter, not dissimilar to the tactic they deployed in October's reverse fixture. Herdman might call for individual creativity to help break down the opposition, so the likes of Stephen Eustáquio and Jonathan Osorio will likely be key in midfield for Canada.
Squad rotation coming at the back? Thursday's defensive lineup was a bit of an unusual one from Canada, partly by necessity with Doneil Henry suspended and Steven Vitoria injured. Atiba Hutchinson, generally such an important presence in midfield, stepped in at centre-back alongside Kamal Miller, to provide a right-footed option instead of the left-footed Derek Cornelius or Scott Kennedy, despite both being natural centre-backs. This time, though, Henry will be eligible to slot back in, which he might well do -- especially if Vitoria remains injured. Hutchinson may not necessarily get the start, but if he does it'll almost certainly be back in midfield. There are questions at fullback, too. With Sam Adekugbe returning from suspension, he might slot in on the left, which could allow Richie Laryea to return to his natural right side after playing the opposite flank in Costa Rica. The question, then, turns to Alistair Johnston -- could Herdman revert to a back five, putting Johnston in the right centre-back spot he's occupied successfully in the past? The only defender whose role seems penned in already is Kamal Miller, who will surely start at left centre-back, but beyond that Herdman has some difficult decisions to make.
Don't get ahead of yourselvesSunday afternoon at BMO Field is, rightfully, being touted as a party in celebration of Canada's qualification. The mood among the crowd is likely to be jubilant from kickoff to full time. For the team themselves, though, it's crucial not to lose focus of the actual match at hand. The job is not quite done, so Canada cannot afford to go into Sunday's game ready to celebrate; therein lies the danger of a match like this. Plus, of course, the pressure is on the hosts -- they, the top side in Concacaf, are coming off their first loss and need a result. The Jamaicans, meanwhile, are eliminated and playing mostly for pride at this point in the competition. This Canada team does not have a track record of being overwhelmed by occasion or pressure, having handled places like the Azteca and high-leverage home matches very well so far. Still, their first home match of the Octagonal saw them come out a little flat against Honduras in another much-anticipated clash. Canada's number one priority in this game has to be maintaining focus on the immediate task at hand, and not on the significance or impending celebrations.
Canada wins: 9 || Jamaica wins: 7 || Draws: 7
October 10, 2021 -- Jamaica 0-0 Canada
October 10, 2021 -- Jamaica 0-0 Canada
KEY QUOTES"There's some things we wanted to take from (Costa Rica), which was the bravery, the courage to keep playing their style of football, but then recognizing this is a completely different animal with Jamaica, and the conditions you can see on the pitch and the conditions that are gonna be in the air." -- Canada coach John Herdman.