Junior Hoilett - Canada - World Cup qualifier - Honduras
USA Today Sports

Junior Hoilett earns rave reviews as "special player" in home debut for Canada

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- For fans of Canada’s national team, it would appear that Junior Hoilett was worth the wait.

The 25-year-old QPR man was officially cap-tied to his birth nation in Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras, after a years-long “will he or won’t he play for Canada?” saga. And in just his second appearance for Canada, Hoilett played a massive role, causing problems down the wing and setting up the only goal in the home side’s 1-0 victory.

“It was a great result, the fans were magnificent,” Hoilett told reporters after the game at Vancouver’s BC Place. “I’m pleased to get a result, and I’m sure the fans are pleased as well.”

Hoilett received attention from the physical Honduran side all night, and was on the receiving end of multiple rough challenges. But the midfielder wasn’t shaken by any of it.

“When you get kicked, for me, that means I’m playing well,” said Hoilett. “I’m used to getting kicked, when the defenders can’t get near you. For me, it just gives me more motivation.”

It was Hoilett’s first home game for the national team, and despite the potential for some mixed feelings amongst Canadian fans, he received a loud ovation from the over 20,000 in attendance when he came off in the second half.

“I couldn’t wait to play on home soil and get a result for the nation, and bring the nation forward,” he said. “It’s a great result, the team played well, and you see how we assembled ourselves.”

Despite his newness with the side, Hoilett already appears to have some on-field chemistry with teammates such as Atiba Hutchinson. For their part, the rest of the team appears to have welcomed him onboard with open arms.

“He’s a very good player,” head coach Benito Floro said after the game. “We are happy with Junior; he was very important not only in the move to score the goal, but in creating problems for the opponent.”

Will Johnson, who got his head to a great cross from Hoilett, en route to Canada scoring their only goal of the night, had effusive praise for his fellow midfielder.

“He’s a special player,” said Johnson. “Junior made a big difference tonight. I’m not sure if we’d win without him. He’s special, and he creates moments, little bits of magic in these games.”

With another World Cup qualifier looming in El Salvador in a few days’ time, Canada will be looking for a few more moments of magic to add to their encouraging start to the semifinal round in CONCACAF. And if Hoilett’s first two games in a Canada kit are any indication, he just might be the one to provide them yet again.  

“We’ll enjoy the night, and wake up tomorrow and prep for the game on Tuesday,” he said with a wide smile.