By Prabhjot Singh*
It has been a golden letter day for Canada. After a gap of 36 years, Canada will be back in the FIFA World Cup . Separated by a margin of four goals – scored by Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and Junior Hoilett – Canada won over Jamaica to secure its first World Cup berth since 1986.
And in 1986, it was Canada’s first and only appearance in the World Cup.
Interestingly, Canada will be one of three host countries for the 2026 FIFA World Cup where 48 teams will compete for the honours. And normally, the hosts get automatic qualification to compete meaning thereby that Canada will be playing its second consecutive FIFA World Cup in 2026.
In 2026, 80 matches will be played in total of which 60 are expected to be staged in the U.S. while Canada and Mexico would get 10 matches each. They are likely to include seven group-stage games, two games in the round of 32 and one in the round of 16.
The FIFA committee that approves venues for the World Cup visited Toronto and Edmonton in November last year. Final decision is expected by end of next month. These are the only Canadian cities still officially in the running. Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium will need renovation as its artificial turf has to make room for the natural grass. Edmonton also needs back up support of the Alberta government. Montreal withdrew its bid last July because of a lack of support at the provincial level while lack of interest from Vancouver never led to a site visit.
In January 2018, a City of Toronto report estimated that it would cost between $30 million and $45 million to host Cup matches, with contributions from all three levels of government. The following month, city council voted 29 to 1 in favour of bidding. Tory said last year that the numbers were not final, but the investment — factoring in support from FIFA and the private sector — was “not insignificant.”
And today’s historic triumph over Jamaica makes Toronto’s bid to be a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup stronger.
Canada had a chance to make it to Qatar last week but it suffered a 0-1 loss to Costa Rica. Incidentally, it was Canada’s first defeat in three World Cup qualifying rounds. Loss to Costa Rica also broke a six-game winning streak.
Supported by a strong home crowd, Canada dominated against the Jamaicans, who already stand eliminated from the World Cup contention.
Now Canada sits at the top of the table in the final qualifying round, followed by the United States, that hold the edge over third-placed Mexico on goal difference. The United States are playing host to Panama and Mexico at Honduras later today.
The top three finishers in the North and Central American and Caribbean region are assured a trip to Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The fourth-place team goes to an intercontinental playoff against a team from Oceania.
Until July, 2020, Canada was ranked 73rd. When the format was announced, it had to advance through two early rounds and was playing its 17th qualifier Sunday. Canada has now climbed to the 33rd spot.
The Canadians finish their qualifying round on Wednesday in Panama.
Inclement weather, including snow, did not deter strong soccer fans as the temperature during the game dropped considerably.
It was Larin who put Canada ahead with his team-leading 13th goal of the qualifying tournament. He could have added another goal to his tally but his attempt at the goal in the 38th minute was just wide off the target.
Larin is one goal behind Ali Mabkhout of the United Arab Emirates for most goals in qualifying for Qatar. Larin also leads the Canadian team with 24 goals, his ever-best. He has already six goals in the final round to his credit.
Six minutes after Larin had scored ,Buchanan doubled the lead. The third goal came from Hoilett in the 82ndminute. A self-goal by Jamaicans made the score 4-0 in the 88th minute.
Incidentally, only member of the present Canadian squad who was alive when the team last played in the World Cup has been Atiba Hutchison, the skipper. He was just three when the Canadians lost to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union at the 1986 tournament in Mexico.
Qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup becomes all the more credible as Canada has been playing without its star Alphonso Davies, who missed the previous three qualifying matches because of myocarditis. It was probably because of Covid 19 that infected him in January this year.
* Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows. For more in-depth analysis please visit probingeye.com or follow him on Twitter.com/probingeye