Confident Canada ready for huge game vs. Mexico: 'We're going for No. 1'

Jonathan David broke the deadlock in the 57th minute thanks to a loose ball to give Canada the 1-0 win over Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifying match.

EDMONTON -- Alphonso Davies has spent more than enough time in Edmonton to know things can get pretty chilly in the city by mid-November. But apparently the local hero hadn’t done a hard examination of the forecast ahead of Canada’s massive match against Mexico on Tuesday night.

After training on Sunday evening, Davies fielded questions on the Commonwealth Stadium pitch while wearing a long, black parka that extended down to his knees. When talk turned to the fact conditions figured to be taking a turn for the colder — as in, possibly into the negative double-digits — Davies made an unmistakable, “Oh, really?” face before addressing the notion such weather would be an advantage for the home side.

“Minus-10 (Celsius) is not easy on anyone,” the Edmonton boy said with a little smile. “That’s going to be a little bit tough. But we’re Canadian, we’re built for this weather.”

Yes, it was long ago established that Canadians can handle the harshest winter conditions. Where a band of Canucks is trying to break new ground, though, is by proving soccer teams from this country can consistently win high-stakes games against the toughest competition. Canada sure got a big victory on Friday, winning the first of two Concacaf matches slated for Northern Alberta by downing Costa Rica 1-0 in cold — but not truly frigid — temperatures.

Now, a little more than a month after earning a draw in Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, Canada hosts the traditional Concacaf power with a chance to blow past them in the World Cup qualifying standings.

Mexico and the United States sit tied atop the table with 14 points apiece following the Americans' 2-0 victory over their neighbours to the south on Friday. Canada — the only undefeated side in the group — is just a single point behind at 13. The top three seeds in the table automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, so it goes without saying pocketing three points versus the Mexicans would be absolutely huge for a Canadian team that’s striving to demonstrate it belongs with the big boys.

“Hopefully we can get the three points and show Edmonton and all of Canada that we’re a serious team,” Canadian midfielder Samuel Piette said. “Obviously the standings speak for itself, but I think the quality we have; we’ve been showing through the campaign and even before we’re a serious team, that we can face anyone.”

While some talk will inevitably be centred on the weather potentially giving the home side a leg up of some kind, Piette noted Canada — from playing in scorching hot temperatures in places like Jamaica to competing in extremely hostile environments — always faces challenges of a different kind when it’s on the road. As for the last time Canada was in Mexico, Piette actually thinks his squad could have done better than the 1-1 tie it registered.

“We had a good result down there,” he said. “[But] I don’t think we were satisfied; I think we could have, honestly, won that game.”

Now comes the critical return match. And while Canadian fans might not be credited with having raucous passion of Mexican supporters just yet, it’s clear to see the players have been invigorated by the tremendous reception they’ve received in Edmonton. The crowd of more than 48,000 on Friday surely earned 12th-man status as they roared and sang throughout the match. Against an even tougher opponent, forward Lucas Cavallini is hoping for more of the same.

“Hopefully the atmosphere is going to be [as good] as Friday’s game,” he said. “The boys are ready; they’re hungry. We’ve been waiting for Mexico to come here and play in our home.”

When the game is in the books, Canada will have completed eight Concacaf World Cup qualifiers, with six more to go when the schedule picks back up in late January. Realistically, this short homestand became some version of a success when Canada earned the win over Costa Rica. A loss — even a draw — there would have been pretty tough to swallow. According to Piette, though, the Canadians came to Edmonton with one thing in mind and have no desire to settle for less.

“We wanted to get six [points], that was our main objective,” he said. “Obviously we know top three [in the table] qualifies you for Qatar, but we’re going for No. 1.”

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