Canada wins twice in race for 2022 FIFA World Cup slot

By  | 22 November 2021 at 16:05 | 724 views

Welcome to ‘Iceteca.’ This was the spirit at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, on Tuesday 16 November 2021. The meme is a play on the warmer clime around famed Azteca stadium in Mexico City. The wintry weather here was quite a chilly contrast, as the men’s national soccer squad hosted their Mexican counterparts.

Over 44,000 fans braved the freezing cold (around -9°C) to watch Canada push past Mexico 2-1. Four days earlier, and slightly warmer, Canada gave visiting Costa Rica a similar treat. The Canadians won 1-0 at the same stadium. There were over 48,000 spectators in attendance.

Cyle Larin, 26, scored a brace against Mexico. Twenty-One-year-old Jonathan David netted the lone goal in the Costa Rica clash. Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies (photo) was a special attraction at both matches. Born in Ghana, to Liberian parents, Davies was playing for Canada in front of his hometown fans for the first time. The versatile lefty turned 21 just ten days before he and his teammates took on Costa Rica.

It snowed profusely on Monday November 15. Also, sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures lingered around Edmonton in the days leading to the Canada/Mexico tilt the next day. So, the Commonwealth Stadium management had covered the playing field completely with tarp sheets. This, to protect the turf from the elements. At kickoff, the tarp drapes were pulled off the turf and marginal snow pushed away, beyond the touchlines of the pitch.

The two victories pushed Canada to the top of the CONCACAF pack, in the race to qualify for the next FIFA World Cup finals. Also, the men’s squad climbed eight rungs to Number 40 in FIFA world rankings. According to The Sports Network (TSN), “Canada started the year at No. 72 but has steadily risen thanks to a 13-2-4 record in 2021.” Canada now sits at Number 3 among CONCACAF nations.

CONCACAF is the acronym for “Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.” It is the continental governing body for soccer in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The federation is based in Miami, FL., USA. It has over 40 member countries.

Currently, there are eight countries still in the race to the World Cup finals in Qatar in 2022. Each plays a total of 14 matches each in this home-and-away round-robin series dubbed ‘The Octagonal.’ The top three teams in the series will qualify automatically. The fourth-placed team will face a two-match playoff to clinch the final slot. The opponent will be any of similarly top non-qualifying teams from soccer federations in Asia, South America, or Oceania.

Canada has 16 points after playing eight games. They have four wins, four draws, and no loss at all. The USA is a close second, with 15 points from eight games. Mexico is third with 14 points.

Panama also has 14 points, but it is placed fourth due to a lower goal-difference. The other four contenders are Costa Rica (with 9 points); Jamaica (7 points); El Salvador (6 points); and Honduras (3 points).

The last time Canada played in the FIFA World Cup finals was in 1986. Argentina, led by Diego Maradona, beat (West) Germany to win cup. The host country was Mexico, and the final match was played at Estadio Azteca.