Canada booked their place in Qatar and will make just a second-ever FIFA World Cup finals appearance after a convincing 4-0 victory over Jamaica in Toronto.
Having last qualified for football’s biggest tournament back in 1986, Canada have shown the perfect mix between excitement and resilience during this World Cup qualification campaign. Despite somewhat surprisingly losing to Costa Rica on Friday, a defeat which ended a 17-match unbeaten streak in FIFA CONCACAF qualifiers, the hosts showed little mercy in freezing conditions, prolonging Jamaica’s wait for a first win on Canadian soil.
‘Canucks’ coach John Herdman had said qualification this evening was “in the stars”. It appeared his side had taken note of his words, too, as they started brightly from kick-off, with Richie Laryearun’s marauding run culminating in a snap-shot chance for Lille forward Jonathan David. Jamaica had barely drawn an icy breath before Stephen Eustáquio’s beautifully-placed through ball found Cyle Larin, who made no mistake with his side-footed finish.
The chances kept coming, with a much-changed Jamaican side struggling to cope, but Tajon Buchanan blasted over when found just 12 yards out. The buoyant crowd appeared to spur Canada on as the hosts poured men forward, and Buchanan made amends for his earlier profligacy by confidently slotting in just minutes before HT.
The hosts hadn’t conceded more than one goal in any game in the final round of qualifying, and perhaps the visitors felt their game was up as Canadian attacks targeted the right side of a frantic Jamaican defence. Even a mixture of good fortune and some frantic last-ditch defending couldn’t prevent a rout, as Junior Hoilett and a comical Adrian Mariappa own goal added gloss to the scoreline late on. Amid the rapturous celebrations, there was a palpable sense of relief, as the pains of a 36-year wait for a World Cup finals participation were washed away.
Ecstatic Canadian fans stayed behind to cheer the result, which saw their team confirm top spot in the standings with a game to spare. As for Jamaica, they have shown reason to be positive about the future during this qualification process, though they must now wait another four years in their quest for a second World Cup finals appearance.