Alphonso Davies scored against Croatia on Sunday to give Canada its first-ever goal at the men’s World Cup.
A cross from Tajon Buchanan found Davies flying through the air and the Bayern Munich star headed it home to give Canada a 1-0 lead.
Canada failed to score or secure a point in its first trip to the tournament in 1986, exiting after three first-round losses in Mexico.
Consider that 2,548 goals in total were scored at the 21 previous World Cups, with 132 of those scored at the 1986 tournament. Brazil came to Qatar as the all-time goals leader at the World Cup with 229, having competed at every tournament.
At the other end of the list, Congo (competing as Zaire), China, Indonesia (competing as Dutch East Indies) and Trinidad and Tobago have yet to score at the World Cup.
It looked like Davies was going to end the scoring drought in the 11th minute of Canada’s opener Wednesday against No. 2 Belgium at Ahmad Bin Al Stadium, but his penalty kick was saved by Belgian ‘keeper Thibault Courtois.
The 41st-ranked Canadians ended up losing 1-0 despite outshooting Belgium 21-9 (each team had three shots on target). Forward Jonathan David led Canada with seven attempted shots, none of which hit the mark.
Canada needed to secure at least a point against No. 12 Croatia to keep alive its hopes of making it to the knockout round.
In 1986, the bookmakers laid long odds on Canada getting a goal in Mexico. And they were proved right as the Canadian men lost 1-0 to France and 2-0 to Hungary in their first two outings at the tournament.
Defender Bob Lenarduzzi came close in Canada’s final Group C game at Estadio Sergio Leon Chavez in Irapuato, on a corner against the Soviet Union, only to have the ball squib off his foot in the penalty box. Canada was blanked again, losing 2-0 in its tournament finale.
“It was a terrible effort,” Lenarduzzi recalled prior to the tournament with a laugh.
“To this day I will have people, older people that is, say ‘You cost me a few bucks. If you had scored there, I would have done all right.’ Whoever scores that first goal for Canada _ and someone’s going to do it in Qatar _ they don’t know it, but they should thank me for them having that honour. Because I should have scored.”
Canada has offensive weapons in Qatar. Cyle Larin came into the tournament with a Canadian men’s record 25 goals while David had 22, Lucas Cavallini 18, Junior Hoilett 14 and Davies 12.
Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who came into Sunday’s matchup with seven Canada goals to his credit, said scoring in Qatar was just a step to a greater goal.
“Of course that will be very special to the country when we get our first goal,” he said prior to the tournament. “You’re going to be remembered forever really. But I don’t think that’s really the focus. The focus is getting the first win. That’s what we’re looking forward to.
“For us it really doesn’t matter who scores as long as somebody does it and we’re able to win the game. I think people are more looking forward to the first win rather than just the first goal.”
The first strike was one of Canada’s first team goals in Qatar, however.
Croatia outscored its opposition 14-9 at the 2018 World Cup, losing 4-2 to France in the final. But it was stymied in its Group F opener Wednesday, playing No. 22 Morocco to a 0-0 draw.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
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