Canada Soccer/Martin Bazyl
Canada Soccer/Martin Bazyl

Canada finishes atop Concacaf table despite 1-0 loss to Panama

With their spot in the FIFA World Cup already booked, Canada dropped just their second game of the Concacaf qualifying round in Panama City on Wednesday by a score of 1-0.

After an even first half, Panama scored five minutes into the second after a gorgeous ball from Christian Martínez was netted home by Gabriel Torres.

Canada had it’s best chance in the 60th minute after a cross from Cyle Larin gave Jonathan David two chances in front of the net, but Panama’s Luis Mejía made a stellar save on the initial chance.

Canada thought it had netted the equalizer on a header from Cyle Larin in the 80th minute. However, Larin was ruled offside via VAR. 

The goal would have been Larin’s 14th of the qualifying round.

Despite their second loss of the Concacaf tournament, Canada still finished atop the table with 28 points, besting Mexico’s goal differential by seven goals. 

Canada was not just playing for pride on Wednesday, as the World Cup draw is determined by FIFA rankings and the loss had seeding implications. With a win, Canada would have moved into Pot 3 where they would eventually be matched with at least one lower-ranked nation in FIFA group play.

Regardless, Canada will spend most of the FIFA World Cup playing as underdogs – a situation they’ve proved they’re perfectly comfortable with during this year’s Concacaf qualifying tournament.

They will await the World Cup finals draw at 12 p.m. EST this Friday. The 2022 FIFA World Cup will begin in Qatar on November 21.

First Round

In June 2020, Concacaf announced a new format for World Cup qualifying. Over the course of three rounds, 35 teams would be eligible to go after just four spots in Qatar.

In the first round, Canada took care of business by going 4-0-0 against Suriname, Bermuda, Aruba, and Cayman Islands. In a round-robin format, they outscored opponents 27-1, winning every match in convincing fashion.

Second Round

The six teams that finished atop their groups were then paired for a head-to-head elimination round. Canada drew Haiti, and had to win on aggregate in a two-game home-and-away series.

After taking a 1-0 lead from the first match, Canada finally broke through in the second half of Game 2. An own goal from Haiti’s Josue Duverger provided a cushion before Canada added goals from Cyle Larin, and Junior Hoilett

Haiti’s Kevin Lafrance (13) defends against Canada’s Cyle Larin (17) during the first half of a World Cup qualifying soccer match Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in Bridgeview, Ill. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

“After that goal, you could sense it. It was almost like the bottle top had been released for the guys and they could just drop their shoulders and let the talent start to flow,” Canada manager John Herdman said postgame.

Third Round

The five highest ranked teams in Concacaf awaited the three qualifiers in what’s known as the ‘Concacaf Octagonal.’ 

On September 2, Canada played to a 1-1 draw in Toronto against Honduras.

The first game featured a series of firsts. It was Canada’s first game on home soil since October 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions and 14,882 fans filled BMO Field in what was also Canada’s first World Cup qualifying match since 1998.

Canada’s highly anticipated match against the U.S. drew over 43,000 fans in Nashville, Tennessee. After falling behind by a goal to start the second half, Cyle Larin calmly buried a goal on a perfect pass from Alphonso Davies. It was Larin’s 13th goal of the entire qualifying tournament, and Canada came away with a 1-1 draw.

Canada got its first win of the tournament after dominating El Salvador, 3-0, in front of home fans in Toronto on September 8.

After away draws with Mexico (1-1), and Jamaica (0-0), Canada got their second win of the tournament in convincing fashion against Panama on October 13. In the fifth minute, Panama’s Rolando Blackburn netted a cross to quickly quiet the crowd. From that point Canada dominated in every facet. After tying the game in the 28th minute, Canada netted three goals in the span of 12 minutes in the second half to send BMO Field into a frenzy.

On October 13 in Toronto, Canada had a come-from-behind win, scoring four unanswered goals including a masterful end-to-end goal from Alphonso Davies that had fans and social media alike in awe at the world-class display.

The 4-1 victory allowed them to leapfrogg Panama to land in third place in the standings.

On November 12, Team Canada was back in action, this time in Edmonton for the first of two games. Canada took on Costa Rica and defeated them 1-0 to remain in third place. The lone goal of the game was scored by Jonathan David.

On January 27th, even without the service of star forward Alphonso Davies, they maintained their position at the top of the table by beating Honduras 2-0.

Canada opened up the scoring early in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, as midfielder Tajon Buchanan’s cross in the 10th minute was deflected in on a Honduras own goal.

Alfonso Davies, meanwhile, was showing love from home as his reaction to the goal from his Twitch stream made waves on social media.

Goaltender Milan Borjan was able to keep Honduras from tying the game with a few clutch second half saves, none better than a diving stop on a header from a free-kick in the 70th minute. That save proved crucial – shortly after Jonathan David was able to capitalize on a beautiful pass from Liam Fraser, making for one of the highlight goals of the tournament.

On January 30, Canada kept the good times rolling in front of a frigid crowd in Hamilton, ON. Their 2-0 win over the U.S. created a distant four points between their rivals at the top of the table. After Cyle Larin opened up scoring in the 7th minute, goaltender Milan Borjan made a clutch save to preserve the lead.

The U.S. pushed back hard for the remainder of the game, spending most of it on the attack. However, stellar defending complimented by firm goal tending by Hamilton’s own Milan Borjan kept the Americans scoreless.

In the final minute of play, Sam Adekugbe secured the win with a solo rush from half field to beat the American goaltender with a powerful strike.

On February 2, Canada won their sixth straight match with a 2-0 win over El Salvador.

After a first half that saw no scoring, Atiba Hutchinson scored off of an unthinkable deflection to give Canada the lead.

Goaltender Milan Borjan continued to show why he’s one of the world’s best – his save on an El Salvador screamer in stoppage time preserved the lead. Jonathan David then put the game away with a cheeky chip in the open field.

Fourth Round

On March 24, Canada dropped their first match of the Concacaf Qualifying Tournament on Thursday in Costa Rica by a score of 1-0. A win would have booked their spot in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

Canada fell behind on a Celso Borges header in extra time before the end of the first half. They spent most of the second half dominating possession and pressing for the equalizer

Canada hit the post twice in the second half, including this Jonathan David deflection in the 87th minute.

Costa Rica would hold on for 1-0 win.

After dropping their first game of the Concacaf qualifying tournament to Costa Rica, Canada had the opportunity to clinch in front of fans at BMO Field against Jamaica.

They left no doubt in the game that clinched their spot in Qatar. A 4-0 victory over Jamaica sealed what the nation was waiting for, and the celebration ensued.