World Cup qualifiers: Costa Rica stops Canada’s men’s bid

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica –


Canada’s bid to secure a spot in the men’s World Cup was shelved on Thursday after a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica saw the Canadians play a man for nearly two-thirds of the match.


It was the Canadian men’s first loss in 18 qualifying matches (13-1-4), ending a six-game winning streak.


There was plenty of drama throughout the night, with Canada at 10 charging hard in the second half, the Costa Ricans hanging on and other results coming into play.


Honduras drew 1-1 in Panama, meaning a Canadian tie would still have earned qualification. And the Canadians could have booked their ticket to Qatar 2022 if Mexico had beaten the United States. But it ended in a 0-0 draw in Mexico City.


Attention now turns to BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday as Canada host Panama in their penultimate qualifier. Then, direction Panama for the final next Wednesday.


Veteran midfielder Celso Borges put Costa Rica (42nd) ahead in first-half stoppage time after Canada, who had struggled to defend from set pieces, failed to failed to clear a free kick. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan kicked the ball in but it went to Costa Rica’s Gerson Torres and three passes later it was in the net as Borges rose above Stephen Eustaquio to head home with a cross from Torres.


The 33rd-ranked Canadians were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye was sent off in the 34th minute for a second yellow card.


Kaye was booked in the 15th minute for a challenge on Ronald Matarrita, catching the FC Cincinnati star low in the shin. Honduran referee Said Martinez went to the pitchside monitor to review the game but opted to stick with the yellow card.


But the Colorado Rapids midfielder was out 19 minutes later after a confrontation with Johan Venegas, who had brought him down seconds earlier without penalty. Kaye, upset from the previous challenge, grabbed Venegas with his shoulder as the two crossed paths with the Costa Rican theatrically falling to the ground. This earned the second yellow.


Despite being trailed and beaten by a man, the Canadians came out with a big goal to start the second half and went close on several occasions.


In the 73rd minute, Tajon Buchanan’s header hit the Costa Rican crossbar after goalkeeper Keylor Navas stopped a low shot from Richie Laryea. And Laryea’s powerful long-range shot in the 83rd minute forced another save from Navas.


Jonathan David hit the post in the 88th minute with a ball out of his body. A free kick from Eustaquio in stoppage time hit the wall.


Canada were the surprise in qualifying, moving up the FIFA rankings. And with players like captain Atiba Hutchinson, Alphonso Davies (currently recovering), Cyle Larin, David, Eustaquio and Borjan, they’ve done it in style.


Canada had outscored their opponents 50-6 while posting 11 clean sheets in qualifying before Thursday.


In Thursday’s other game, El Salvador drew 1-1 against Jamaica.


Thursday marked the fourth anniversary of Herdman’s first game in charge of the men, a 1-0 victory against New Zealand in Murcia, Spain, in front of just 75 people. His record at the men’s helm heading into Thursday was 28-6-4 with the only losses to the United States (twice), Mexico (twice), Haiti and Iceland.


The Canadian men came into play Thursday atop the eight-team final round robin, four points ahead of 12th-seeded Mexico and 13th-seeded United States.


The No. 62 Panama finished fourth and the No. 42 Costa Rica fifth.


The top three teams qualify for Qatar while the fourth takes on a team from Oceania in an intercontinental match to see who will join them.


Qatar, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Iran, Japan, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia , Serbia, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland are already qualified in the 32 teams of the World Cup. and Uruguay.


With defenders Doneil Henry and Sam Adekugbe suspended and Steven Vitoria struggling with injury, Herdman started the 39-year-old Hutchinson as centre-back. His starting 11 entered the game with a combined cap count of 414, with Hutchinson taking his men’s Canadian record to 93.


The players sang “O Canada” with fireworks exploding above the 35,000 capacity Estadio Nacional and drowning out half of the anthem.


The physical Canadians allowed a series of free-kicks early on, with Costa Rica getting several free headers that were off target.


The Canadians weren’t as fluid in the first half as they had been in previous matches, but started to find some rhythm as the half wore on, with Laryea finding space on the left flank. Herdman switched to a 3-5-2 formation, then had to jig again when Kaye came out.


Larin came close in the 37th when a Eustaquio corner dropped at his feet in front of goal, but Calvo did enough to save him from getting shot. At the other end, Borjan played with fire when his clearing attempt deflected Anthony Contreras towards the goal. Luckily for Canada, he went wide.


Navas, who plays at his club football for Paris Saint-Germain, had to be sharp in the 29th minute, securing a leg from a close-range shot by Buchanan.


Borjan stopped Joel Campbell in the 53rd after the Costa Rican striker was left alone with Hutchinson trying to chase him down. Two minutes later, David’s dangerous shot was blocked by a defender.


Eustaquio’s angled shot was just wide in the 64th minute.


CF Montreal midfielder Ismael Kone, 19, made his Canadian debut on the bench in the 79th minute.


Davies took to Twitter to express his support ahead of the game,


“Good luck to my teammates tonight. Let’s take care of business this week and make history. I’d love to be there with you guys. LET’S GO!!” said the Bayern Munich speedster, who is returning from myocarditis after a bout of COVID-19.


“Good luck tonight boys!” A huge opportunity, the whole country is behind you,” tweeted Canada Women’s captain Christine Sinclair, who has played in five World Cups.


Canada has appeared in seven of the eight Women’s World Cups, only missing the inaugural event in 1991. The women finished fourth at the 2003 tournament in the United States.


The Canadian men beat Costa Rica 1-0 when the teams met in a November qualifier in Edmonton and 2-0 when they met last July in the Gold Cup quarter-finals in Arlington, Texas.


The Canadians were 7-7-9 all-time against Costa Rica heading into Thursday’s game, including 2-2-2 in games on Costa Rican soil.



This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 24, 2022

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