By FTF Affiliate Saif Pirani
The Canadian Men’s National Team has overcome their latest barrier on the journey to Qatar. After a 1-0 victory in the first leg of their second round qualification tie, the Canadians secured a spot in the newly formed “Octagon” with a convincing 3-0 second-leg win against Haiti.
The tie will be remembered for a calamitous own goal by Haiti’s goalkeeper, Josue Duverger, in the second leg. Soon after his blunder, Cyle Larin, who scored the lone goal in the first leg, bagged the decisive second goal of the match. Junior Hoilett, a second half substitute, proceeded to seal the 4-0 aggregate victory by tapping in his own rebound that ricocheted off the goal post.
John Herdman stuck with a fluid 5-3-2 formation across both ties. Veteran centre-back Steven Vitoria and LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye both flourished in this system while Alphonso Davies continued to dominate proceedings on his favourite left flank. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Milan Borjan set a new Canadian record for clean sheets with 24 after his latest shutouts.
Canada, ranked No. 70 in world football, is now in the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualification for the first time since 1997. In addition to Herdman’s side, the new “Octagon” group consists of five countries who received a bye (USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras) and the two other playoff winners (Panama and El Salvador). Canada will play each team twice (home and away), with the possibility of home games being hosted across our nation (pending COVID-19 restrictions). The top three countries qualify for the World Cup and the fourth-place country books a spot in an intercontinental play-off match.
Though Canada is set to co-host the 2026 World Cup, qualification for the 2022 showpiece is still a real possibility. And according to some players, there is no reason why they can’t qualify. “At the end of the day, we know 2026 will happen, but 2022 is something that we’re aiming for right now”, defender Alistair Johnston preached to reporters. With the “Octagon” set to kick off in September, the belief is starting to grow as Canada seeks to attend only their second World Cup in their nation’s history.