TORONTO — It’s real, everyone.
The Canadian men’s national team will play at a FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986. A dominant 4-0 win over Jamaica at BMO Field ensured its place in Qatar, capping off a historic afternoon in fashion.
This isn’t Canada’s first notable achievement in soccer. Heck, the women just won gold in Tokyo last summer. That will undoubtedly have lasting effects, from a spike in player registrations to a rise in interest in the women’s game, with Canada Soccer pushing for an NWSL team in Toronto to kickstart something more grandiose in the future.
However, there is an unfathomable impact that comes with qualifying for the men’s World Cup.
Facing the likes of France or Argentina in the biggest sporting spectacle on Earth will be a special sight. The world will be on notice that Canada is now a serious outfit, too. Millions of boys and girls watching on TV will want to be the next Alphonso Davies or Christine Sinclair, which could lead to an even deeper player pool.
To top it off, the Canadian federation will receive a $15-million windfall from FIFA for qualifying for the World Cup. That doesn’t include potential prize money based on tournament performance and an influx of corporate sponsors, with Gatorade recently announced as a partner. All of this cash can be used to rebuild multiple facets of the sport in Canada.
“We had to qualify for 2022 to set a foundation for 2026,” said Canada coach John Herdman. “With the investment that comes in with World Cups, we needed that so we can really compete when we get to 2026 and a home World Cup.
“This is the time for everyone to get behind football and unite because we can be a powerhouse.”
This is only the beginning of the excitement in Canadian soccer.
Here are three takeaways from Canada’s resounding victory.
Adekugbe demolishes Jamaica
If there was one man who was missed in the 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, it was Sam Adekugbe and he proved why on Sunday.
No Canadian player had more interceptions (five), tackles (two) or touches (88) than Adekugbe, who also completed 52 of 60 passes and three key passes in a sensational display.
That left side in general was tremendously successful for Canada. The triangles between Adekugbe, Junior Hoilett and Stephen Eustaquio created countless dangerous attacks for the hosts. Jamaican right-back Javain Brown and right-sided centre-back Richard King were under constant duress.
The majority of Canada’s attacks were generated down that flank and it clearly paid dividends in the form of four goals.
Eustaquio masterclass, Part Infinity
It’s incredible that Atiba Hutchinson, aged 39 with nearly 20 years and 94 games of service for the national team, will finally get to experience a World Cup.
However, Hutchinson will call time on his career very soon. For most countries, it would be incredibly difficult to cope with losing a player of his importance and magnitude.
Thankfully for Canada, it has Stephen Eustaquio.
The 25-year-old midfielder was majestic again on Sunday, completing a team-high 60 of 66 passes, two key passes and provided defensive cover for Adekugbe whenever he bursted forward.
This has been a regular theme for the Porto man with Canada over the last 12 months. Perhaps no one is more indispensable to the team than Eustaquio, and he produced the goods when his country needed him.
All eyes on World Cup draw
There is still one final qualifier to play in Panama, but there are a few implications for Canada in that match on Wednesday.
Firstly, the chance to secure first place in Concacaf qualifying is on the line. If Canada wins or draws, it will wrap up top spot.
However, winning would behoove Canada even more. If it is victorious, that boosts its chances of attaining a higher seed for Friday’s World Cup draw. The Canadians require help from a few African teams to do so, but it’s a distinct possibility.
The fact this is even being discussed after a 36-year World Cup drought just amplifies the rise of this program over the last 12 months.