Canada will have the opportunity on Thursday to earn the point they need in Costa Rica to secure their presence in Qatar 2022, their first World Cup qualification since Mexico 1986 and the second in their history.
The Canadians will take on the Ticos at the National Stadium in San José for the twelfth date of the CONCACAF qualifying round.
Canada, surprise leader of the qualifying round, is only one draw away from obtaining its visa to the Asian competition. They have 25 points, four more than the United States and Mexico, second and third in the standings, respectively. These three positions receive a direct ticket to the World Cup.
The Canadians have broken the odds and have dominated the pre-World Cup, with a balanced but fast-paced style of soccer, with enviable efficiency on both sides of the field.
They are the top scorer and the lowest scorer, they are undefeated and have more victories than the rest.
For this knockout break they will be without their biggest name, Alphonso Davies, affected by cardiac sequelae after suffering covid-19. However, over the months they have found players who can cover the absence of the Bayern Munich player.
Among them are French Lille striker Jonathan David and recent Belgian Brugge signing Tajon Buchanan.
“When we first got together, we wanted to be pioneers in many ways. One of them was to create a new Canada as a soccer nation. (…) Now we have Costa Rica in front of us. This game is everything right now,” said coach John Herdman.
Costa Rica’s reality is quite the opposite.
Costa Rica on the Brink
The Ticos have played on the edge of the precipice for four games now and have managed to hold on to the World Cup dream by millimeters. Thursday will be no exception.
A loss to the Canadians, combined with a Panama win over Honduras, would leave them, with two games remaining, on the brink of a soccer miracle.
Costa Rica is currently in fifth place with 16 points. Panama, with 17 points, is fourth, a place that entitles it to a play-off against the Oceania champion, which will also be decided this week.
El Salvador (9), which is still dreaming of reaching the play-offs, and the eliminated Jamaica (7) and Honduras (3) are further down the table.
The Ticos will rely on their great figure, Keylor Navas, Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper, who practically saved his national team in all the matches he played in the pre-World Cup.
The ‘Sele’ has been extremely inefficient in offensive generation, so Navas had to fly from stick to stick to protect his goal and give his country a chance. He succeeded.
The Costa Rican defense is the second best in the pre-World Cup, with only seven goals conceded (after just Canada, with five) and, in the last four matches, they have kept three clean sheets. In that streak they obtained 10 out of a possible 12 points, which put them back in contention.
However, Costa Rica’s problem is that it has scored only eight goals, the third worst record (Honduras has five and El Salvador six).
“I trust my teammates, I trust the coaching staff, I trust the fans and I know that when Costa Ricans are in these situations, we always go out to show our faces and we go out to do things right,” said Navas.
After this match, Canada will host Jamaica on Sunday and will take on Panama away next Wednesday in the octogonal finale, while Costa Rica will visit El Salvador and host the USA on those same dates.
Costa Rica: Keylor Navas – Ronald Matarrita, Francisco Calvo, Kendall Waston, Bryan Oviedo – Yeltsin Tejeda, Celso Borges, Alonso Martínez, Bryan Ruiz – Joel Campbell, Johan Venegas. Coach: Luis Fernando Suárez.
Canada: Milan Borjan – Steven Vitória, Richie Laryea, Samuel Adekugbe, Kamal Miller – Alistair Johnston, Atiba Hutchinson, Stephen Eustáquio – Cyle Larin, Jonathan David, Tajon Buchanan. DT: John Herdman.
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