Following a 2-2 draw with Cuba and some help from the United States on Tuesday, Canada’s under-23 men are one win away from qualifying for Olympic football.
Michael Petrasso and Molham Babouli scored for Canada in each half. Arichel Hernandez of Cuba cancelled the lead both time. Hernandez’s second strike – the equalizer – arrived just three minutes from time, giving Canada a scare. Had Cuba gone on to win the match, it would’ve finished ahead of Canada in points and advanced to the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinals.
Coming out of Group A in second place behind USA (which ended Panama’s hopes by winning 4-0 on Tuesday), Canada will playGroup B winner Mexico. United States faces Honduras for the other Olympic spot.
The semifinals are on Saturday, October 10, in Utah with each winner advancing to not just the final, but the Olympics as well. The Canada match is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on TLN. Should Canada lose, it will play a third place match three days later. The third place team will have a playoff against Colombia for an additional Olympic spot.
Canadian men have previously played in three men’s Olympic football tournaments. Here’s a quick breakdown of each appearance, including a gold medal performance.
St. Louis 1904
A three-team competition saw Galt FC from present-day Cambridge, Ontario beat two American sides 7-0 and 4-0 in each match of the round robin tournament to take Olympic gold at St. Louis 1904.
Canada did not play Olympic football again until hosting the Games of Montreal 1976, ending a streak of missing 13 consecutive tournaments. The host country didn’t excel, losing both of its group matches Soviet Union (2-1) and North Korea (3-1).
Los Angeles 1984
With Games host United States already qualified, Canada took one of the two available regional spots, along with Costa Rica for Los Angeles 1984. Several nations boycotted the Games on U.S. soil, leaving Canada to perform well in its group, drawing Iraq 1-1, losing to Yugoslavia 1-0 and beating Cameroon 3-1 for a place in the quarterfinals. There, Canada met a Brazilian side featuring future World Cup winner and current Brazil manager Dunga.
With a goal from Dale Mitchell, Canada took the Brazilians to penalties tied 1-1. In spot kicks Brazil put away its first four to beat Canada 4-2. Canadian men haven’t qualified for Olympic football since that quarterfinal exit.