Here are three takeaways on a historic day for Canadian soccer.
It was unexpectedly frigid at BMO Field. Temperatures dipped to below freezing with a windchill of seven degrees (minus-14 Celsius) and snow blowing across the lakeshore.
In other words, it was a stereotypically Canadian Sunday afternoon.
It was fitting, seeing as how Canada boosted their World Cup hopes in the cold confines of Edmonton and Toronto from November to January Concacaf World Cup qualifying. Those victories over Costa Rica, Mexico and the US men’s national team were vital for the team’s qualification hopes, and it was a storybook ending to secure their spot in Qatar on another chilly day.
At least there was no need for ice to chill the champagne.
In lieu of bubbly, there was plenty of champagne soccer on display. Canada absolutely dominated an experimental Jamaican side. Les Rouges outshot The Reggae Boyz 11-2 at halftime and registered an expected goals (xG) total of 1.85 through 45 minutes to Jamaica’s 0.14. It was breathtaking to watch the match unfold.
From goalkeeper Milan Borjan to Jonathan David operating as a pseudo-playmaker, every player put in a tremendous shift after a disappointing 1-0 result in Costa Rica on Thursday. The performance in San Jose, specifically in the second half, was impressive but lacked execution.
"We had some road bumps and we needed some road bumps,” said Canada coach John Herdman. “I think this country, they never believed in us because we have given them nothing to believe in. They believe now and I think if we all get behind each other, this is the time to get behind football and unite because we could be a powerhouse.”
There was no such problem on Sunday.
There is still one qualifier remaining in Panama City on Wednesday night (9:05 pm ET | Paramount+, OneSoccer, Sportsnet). Canada can top the Octagonal with at least a draw against Panama and potentially secure improved seeding for the World Cup draw on April 1.
But the important factor is that Canada are back at a men’s World Cup for the first time in 36 years, and the long-suffering fanbase can finally relax and celebrate that fact.
"[Qualifying] will change the country forever,” Herdman proclaimed. “We have got to capture the moment. We will set this country up for the next 20 or 30 years."
This qualifying cycle has been nothing less than flawless for Cyle Larin, who was Canada’s first goalscorer of the Ocho in the 1-1 draw with Honduras way back on Sept. 2.
Like some players, Larin wasn’t entirely in top form against Costa Rica but he made up for that inactivity with a dominant showing in front of goal. The Besiktas forward opened the scoring, registered a team-high five shots and set up two quality chances.
One of those opportunities fell to Jonathan David, Larin’s partner in crime. The partnership has drawn criticism at different stages of the campaign, yet it was in perfect harmony on Sunday. David was manipulating space in between the Jamaican lines, set up some brilliant sequences and could’ve had a goal of his own, too.
This was a new-look Jamaican defense, which is an important caveat. But there is a reason why Canada coach John Herdman has leaned on this duo up front for most of the Octagonal. When it clicks, it’s practically unstoppable.
If there was one concern entering the Ocho, it was Canada’s defense. The attacking talent was already heralded but the key was going to be keeping the ball out of the goal.
Fast forward to Game 13 and Canada have picked up seven clean sheets, including Sunday’s win, and maintain the best defensive record in Concacaf.
No one could have foreseen this output from a backline that was constantly pinpointed as the team’s Achilles’ heel. But to the defenders’ credit, they have delivered and are a major factor behind this historic qualification.