MEXICO CITY – Four games before the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying final round and Canada are unbeaten, turning heads and raising expectations.
The Canadian men rallied to tie Mexico 1-1 on a Jonathan Osorio goal on Thursday, collecting a valuable away point against the top-ranked team in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Canadian men have taken their pieces at Azteca Stadium in the past. But John Herdman’s young side, despite missing a few important pieces, showed in the first half and part of the second that they can keep up with CONCACAF’s power, giving as well as possible and sometimes more on a hostile terrain.
“We wanted three points… I’m happy with the point but at the same time I think there was an opportunity to take three,” Herdman said. “I think we’re going to get away from it, looking at this in time and thinking we could have taken three points.”
History was against it.
Osorio’s goal was Canada’s first against Mexico in Azteca in 41 years. Canada Soccer Hall of Fame member Gerry Gray scored in the 87th minute to tie Canada to 1-1 in a World Cup qualifier in November 1980. The Canadians had a All-time 0-6-1 record against Mexico at Azteca and had been outscored 16-0 there in the last four games there dating back to July 1993.
Times have changed, it seems.
In another game on Thursday, the United States beat Jamaica 2-0 in Austin, Honduras drew 0-0 against Costa Rica and El Salvador beat Panama 1-0 in San Salvador.
The results left the Americans in the lead in the CONCACAF round robin on goal difference with both teams with eight points at 2-0-2. Canada (1-0-3) is third, one point ahead of Panama (1-0-2).
The Canadian men will face No.59 Jamaica in Kingston on Sunday before returning home to face No.68 Panama at BMO Field in Toronto next Wednesday.
In March, after the remaining eight teams have each played 14 matches, the top three of the CONCACAF final qualifiers will book their tickets to Qatar 2022. The fourth-placed team will take part in an intercontinental playoff to see who will join them.
Canadian men have not reached the final round of qualifying in the region since France ’98 preparations
Tied 1-1 at the break, Mexico came in force in a second half that was interrupted in the 59th minute for objectionable fan chants. The competition was initially supposed to be held behind closed doors as a punishment for such behavior in the past, but FIFA cut the penalty in half to one match, meaning fans were allowed in.
After a tie start, Mexico took the lead in the 22nd minute after Chucky Lozano found Jorge Sanchez behind defense.
The game started with Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa at the other end of the pitch. Three passes later, Lozano had the ball in front of the Canadian penalty area and spotted Sanchez, who had his arm raised as he moved behind full-back Richie Laryea.
Osorio equalized in the 42nd minute, beating Ochoa on a throw-in after making a counting pass from Alphonso Davies who knocked out four Mexican defenders. Osorio controlled the ball and then inserted it into the corner for his seventh goal for Canada.
“That goal is all Phonzie, to be honest,” said Osorio. “He deserves the credit. He’s our star player and he shows up every time. And it’s hard to do, with the pressure he is under.”
The Toronto FC midfielder is no stranger to goals at Azteca, having scored in a 1-1 draw with Club America in April 2018 that saw MLS advance to the League final. of the CONCACAF Scotiabank champions.
Osorio’s strike was also Canada’s first goal at the famous stadium since Alex Bunbury against Martinique in the 1993 Gold Cup.
It was Davies, 20’s 14th career assist for Canada, tying the national team record set earlier this year by Junior Hoilett.
The Canadians entered the game with a 4-20-8 record against Mexico at the senior level since 1957. Canada was 1-12-7 against the Mexicans in World Cup qualifying, the only one victory taking place in October 1976 in Vancouver.
Canada and Mexico last met in late July in the Gold Cup semi-final, with the Mexicans needing a 99th-minute goal to win Houston 2-1.
Canada was without veteran goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade, Serbia), who is recovering from COVID-19, as well as captain Atiba Hutchinson and forward Cyle Larin (both in Besiktas, Turkey) and forward Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps) recovering from an injury. The hope is that they could join the team later in the window.
Canada Soccer previously said Hoilett (Reading, England) and midfielder David Wotherspoon (St. Johnstone, Scotland) would meet the team in Jamaica ahead of the weekend’s game against the Reggae Boyz in order to avoid the quarantine that visitors to Mexico must undergo. on his return to Brittany.
The starting Canadian 11 entered the game with a total of 219 caps, of which 44 belonged to Osorio. Six of the starters were 24 or younger.
Steven Vitoria was the team captain in Hutchinson’s absence.
Canada had the best scoring chance early in the game with Ochoa parrying Laryea’s powerful shot in the 15th minute after the Toronto FC full-back combined with Davies, ran down the left flank and s ‘is then directed inward. The rebound came to Tajon Buchanan, who hammered his shot high.
Four minutes later, Mexico came closer as Lozano shot high after a counterattack triggered by a Mark-Anthony Kaye reversal.
Buchanan and Davies, both speedsters, almost combined in the 31st minute when Buchanan left several Mexicans in his dust and wound up in a beautiful low cross across the box. A running Davies put one foot on the ball at the far post but couldn’t point it towards the target.
Canada threatened again in the 40th with Ochoa making a reflex head stop at close range from Vitoria on a free kick from Stephen Eustaquio.
Crepeau and Lozano tangled early in the second half as the Canadian goaltender tried to distribute the ball, but cooler heads prevailed.
There was more fuss in the 56th minute when Jesus Corona kicked Laryea after the two fell near the Canadian penalty area. Salvadoran referee Ismael Cornejo has shown yellow cards to both players, meaning Laryea will be suspended for the game against Jamaica after receiving a second caution.
Soon after, Corona tested Crepeau closely at the near post after a Mexican touch.
Canadian defender Alistair Johnston approached an own goal in the 64th, but his clear header, clearing the ball from a waiting Raul Jimenez, bounced off the crossbar.
Jimenez, in his first international game since sustaining a broken skull playing for England Wolves last November, scored in the 66th, but the goal was called off for a foul.
Herdman brought in Sam Adekugbe, Liam Fraser and Liam Millar in a triple change in the 77th minute. Charles-Andreas Brym arrived late for his fourth Canadian selection.
Canada had previously equaled the United States and Honduras and beaten El Salvador.
This is the first time since 1980 that Canada has achieved such (two draws) results against Mexico and the United States in the same World Cup qualifying round.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 7, 2021