Last night’s 4-0 win over Suriname was a massive step for the Canadian Men’s Soccer Team on their road to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. It was far from the team’s best performance, but thanks to Champions League winner Alphonso Davies and Ligue 1 winner Jonathan David, they got the job done convincingly. It shows how far Canada Soccer has come that we, as fans, aren’t fully satisfied by a 4-0 victory. Although the game wasn’t shown on any television channel in Canada last night, and you had to buy a subscription to onesoccer just to watch the game, which is an entirely different issue in itself. That doesn’t take away from just how crucial the win was.
Canada now just has to win a two-legged tie against Haiti to make the final stage of CONCACAF WCQ for the first time since before this century even started, and the importance cannot be understated. For the past 20 years, ever since Canada’s Cinderella Gold Cup run back in 2000, it has been nothing but failure and heartache in every big moment for Canada Soccer and its fans, and I do mean EVERY big moment.
First, it was the 2007 Gold Cup Semi-Final against the U.S., where a stoppage-time tying goal by Atiba Hutchinson was wrongly ruled out to prevent the game from going to extra time and subsequently knocking Canada out of the tournament.
Then it was the 8-1 loss to Honduras in 2012, a game in which just a draw would have seen Canada make the final round of World Cup Qualifying.
And lastly, but certainly not least, who could forget Canada blowing a 2 nil halftime lead in the Gold Cup Quarters 2 years ago to the same team they will play this weekend.
Again and again, Canada had embarrassed itself on the biggest stages of CONCACAF soccer, and not many in Canada outside of die-hard footy fans like myself seemed to care. But then, one night last October changed things.
Canada’s 2-0 over the U.S at BMO Field in October of 2019 became national headline news. It marked the change in the attitude of the whole national program, and it showed that we can compete amongst the best in our region. It also showed that Canadians cared about our soccer team, but they need to be shown and told why things like the win over the U.S matter.
This is why the tie against Haiti is essential to the growth of the Canadian soccer program. It is a chance to not only erase what happened 2, 9, and 14 years ago. It is also a chance to establish the soccer program as more than just a footnote on SportsCentre every time an international break rolls around. Finally, it’s an opportunity to show the younger generations that football is a sport that matters in Canada.
This Canada team also isn’t just fool’s gold. They aren’t a flash in the pan, they’re here to stay, and they’re only getting better. When you look at their attack, you see Alphonso Davies, one of the best U-21 players in the world who is a regular starter for the champions of Germany. Beside him, you have the French Champion’s second-highest goalscorer in Jonathan David and the Turkish Champion’s highest goal scorer in Cyle Larin, all under 26.
Then you keep going down the list, and you find Junior Hoilett, a player who has spent almost all of his career in the first and second divisions of English football, and Theo Corbenau, a 19-year old winger who made his first-ever Premier League appearance for Wolves just last month. It’s an attacking core that is not only talented and deep but also incredibly raw. Everyone bar Hoilett has not even scratched the surface of what they could become by their peak as players, and I don’t know how any Canadian interested in soccer isn’t excited by that. Yes, the midfield and backline need work. But there are pieces for the future there with names like Scott Kennedy, Richie Laryea, Stephen Eusquatio, and Mark-Anthony Kaye, again all under the age of 26. John Herdman and Co. are building something very special.
I’m not here to tell you that Canada will win the World Cup in 5 years; of course, they won’t. Neither Mexico nor the States has come close to winning a World Cup. Both of them are much farther along in their process than we are. And that’s what this is, a process. That’s what I can tell you, that if you invest your time into Canada’s Men’s team, you trust the process, and you are patient, you will reap the benefits in the long run. There hasn’t been much to feel proud about regarding our nation in the past couple of days with what happened in Kamloops and London, and I hope these tragedies lead to some much-needed difficult conversations that this country needs to have. But these boys’ hard work deserves support and recognition. They’ve come too far to fail at the final hurdle again; this time, they will get it done.