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‘Electric atmosphere’ inspires important win for Canada over Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying

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When Canada decided to play in Edmonton for this round of World Cup qualifiers, the intention was to make their opponents uncomfortable. 

And Canada capitalized on the choice of venue Friday night, defending their northern fortress with an important 1-0 victory over Costa Rica at Commonwealth Stadium.

“The people are traveling to see this team and the atmosphere was electric,” said head coach John Herdman after the game. “I really feel and this team feels the country’s behind them.

“It was a tough match, Costa Rica had a very clear plan and the fans, they stayed with us and they got us through.”

Canada starts strong

In front of a bumper crowd of over 48,000 spectators, the match kicked off after a rousing Canadian national anthem. Canada jumped out to the early possession advantage, controlling the ball in Costa Rica’s half. However, despite the corners and passing prowess, the visitors defended well, preventing any major chances. 

Liam Millar turned heads early, Canada playing down the left flank and using his pace to generate offense. The best chances came from his boot, as an incisive ball in the 15th minute found Canadian superstar Alphonso Davies in the box, whose shot was deflected past the goal. The ensuing corner saw the ball ricochet off of a Costa Rican defender and off the crossbar. 

Tempers began to flare later with the match becoming more physical. Ritchie Laryea picked up the first yellow of the game in the 18th minute, and the flow of the game was bogged down by a myriad of infractions.

“We were good in the first twenty,” Herdman said post-match. “We started to get a little bit stuck, we got involved in some of those dark arts of you know, those little fouls and then slowing the game down, and then we just lost momentum and rhythm.”

Costa Rica tested keeper Milan Borjan in the 35th minute with a well-struck effort from range – the Canadian keeper snagging it easily in his hands. Just a few moments later, Canadian striker Jonathan David appeared to be fouled in the box but no penalty was awarded. 

The half came to a close scoreless with Canada finding more flow in the last 10 minutes. Though they controlled 65% of the possession, they lacked the decisive chance needed to break the deadlock. 

David pounces in the second half

Both sides looked a little listless in the early minutes of the second half. However, Canada found their legs soon enough. Davies broke in down the left flank once again in the 53rd minute, sending an arching cross that barely missed Millar’s head. Then, in the 54th, Tajon Buchanan nearly made front-page headlines as his bicycle kick effort slammed against the underside of the woodwork. 

With the Canadians buzzing and the fans rising along with them, it wasn’t long before the awaited breakthrough happened. A cross into the box was met by Costa Rica keeper Leonel Moreira. The ball slipped through his fingers, and David was the first to pounce, slotting into the back of the net to give Canada the lead in the 57th minute.

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“He knows he has to be in those areas when the opportunities come,” Herdman said about David. “If he said those areas, we know what’s going to happen. He’s a special talent, a real special talent.”

He praised the role of his midfield too in generating Canada’s chances. “When they start moving, that front four, if they start connecting together, that’s a special group of players.”

Steven Vitória nearly added a second just a couple of minutes later, his headed chance off the corner stopped wonderfully by Moreira. 

Canada’s Tajon Buchanan with an acrobatic effort vs Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. Photo: Stuart Gradon/Total Soccer News

With Cyle Larin coming in for Millar, Canada kept pressing to the delight of the home crowd. Sam Adekugbe was particularly active throughout the entire match, fancy footwork and pace making life miserable for the Costa Ricans as he defended and attacked very well. 

The match settled down in terms of chances. Veteran midfielder Atiba Hutchinson entered the match in the 72nd, tying Julian De Guzman’s cap record at 89 appearances for Canada. He has the chance to break the mark against Mexico. 

In the 83rd, hometown hero Davies made way for Ike Ugbo to make his Canada debut. The young forward had himself a brief cameo, where he nearly blew the roof off the place with a rocketing chance in the 94th that went barely wide. 

Up next in World Cup qualifying

With the 1-0 result, Canada moves to 3-4-0 and remains the only undefeated team in the ‘octagon’, the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying. They sit in the third and final qualification spot, two points ahead of Panama.

Their next match sees Mexico visit them in Edmonton on Tuesday, November 16th, with a result crucial to keeping them in the qualification spot.

CONCACAF World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying final round

United States843112515
Costa Rica8233679
El Salvador81344106
Updated Nov. 16, 2021

About Author

Michael is a kinesiology student at the University of British Columbia and an avid sports fan. He covers a variety of UBC varsity teams and Pacific FC of the Canadian Premier League.

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