Canada qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years

Canada has returned to the men’s World Cup over four decades after their last appearance, becoming the first North American nation to clinch a place in Qatar 2022.

John Herdman’s side qualified with a 4-0 win against Jamaica at a noisy BMO Field in Toronto, in the most suitable style and conditions for a team that has astonished both their own country and Concacaf. Thousands of people at the stadium — and millions more across the country – were ecstatic.

Because the weather gods of the great white north sneered at the concept of spring, they brought cold snow showers and fierce winds roaring in from Lake Ontario on this historic Sunday, the conditions were suitable. However, the manner was appropriate since Herdman, the Englishman who has virtually single-handedly converted the country into a men’s football nation, saw his team beat the weather and secure victory with 90 minutes of swashbuckling counter-attacking.

Despite the fact that just four of a plethora of opportunities were seized, it didn’t matter. All that mattered after so long in exile was to return.

Canada played its 24th game in precisely one year on Sunday, a schedule that should have been exhausting. It may have put undisciplined bodies and brains to the test. Instead, it brought the team closer together, building a shared will that shined through each starry (and snowy) night.

A journey that began with close-door victories over the Cayman Islands has amassed memories that will last a lifetime in just one year. Victory in Haiti, which qualified to the Concacaf final qualifying round for the first time since 1998; Alphonso Davies’ solitary wonder goal against Panama; defeating Mexico at the Iceteca; Milan Borjan yelling as the United States was defeated in Hamilton. Now comes this proudly Canadian moment: securing a World Cup spot in the midst of squalls and sunlight.

Herdman told the Guardian in September that he felt “a freedom” to make history and that “brotherhood” would help them get there. The same word kept appearing. There’s no denying that the timetable aided Canada’s family’s success.

Midfielder Stephen Eustaquio claimed he’ll “ask all of [the team] to my wedding” on the night of this crucial game with Jamaica. They’re blood relatives.”

On Sunday, Cyle Larin may have won the best man’s role when Herdman’s team responded with purpose, and Eustaquio threaded a pass the striker’s way after 13 minutes. Andre Blake’s lungs emptied with ecstasy as he despatched it past him.

A minute before halftime, Tajon Buchanan scored the second, stroking the ball home — and taking a country off its feet. The West Stand at BMO Field rocked as Canadians jumped with joy. They are now enamored after having had so many opportunities to get to know the team this past year.

Of course, the demanding schedule had to be regulated as well. Herdman has done a fantastic job. Canada has won 16 and drawn four of the 23 games before to Sunday, losing only three times, all by a single goal.

The fact that Davies, the team’s greatest player, missed seven of the 14 qualifiers and spent Sunday yelling his support on social media from Munich speaks much about Herdman’s ability to get so much out of so many people.

Canada’s forecasts for 2021-22 are not optimistic. Leicester City is a football club based in Leicester 2015-16. International and club football have become distant relatives, and the Premier League championship won by the latter was a far bigger surprise than Herdman’s squad reaching the World Cup. However, there are some startling parallels. The use of a counter-attacking strategy confounds even the most feared opponents. As veterans and newcomers lifted their game, an underappreciated defense, once perceived to be a weakness, became a strength. Yes, there was a core, but they were surrounded by a fluid ensemble that embraced the ‘next man up’ concept.

They’ve all climbed to a height that hasn’t been seen in over a generation. It heralds the start of a new era in Canadian football. What about Concacaf? The continental plates have changed in an unlikely-to-be-temporary fashion. The team’s finest players (Davies, David, and Buchanan) are still young, and Canada will co-host the 2026 World Cup. Herdman has also scouted potential recruits. The lure of back-to-back World Cups is now dangling in front of him. North American football has undergone a complete transformation.

On Sunday, Herdman threw captain Atiba Hutchison on with a half-hour to go, as if to remind everyone how far they’d come. As the sun came back out, the 39-year-old midfielder, who is in his 20th season with the national team, was showered with adoration from the fans.

In the last 10 minutes, Junior Hoilett added a third goal and Adrian Mariappa put one into his own net, but the scoreboard seemed almost immaterial as the flakes of snow resumed and the Canadian bench poured onto the field at full-time.

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