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Canada blanks Haiti, advances to final round of CONCACAF World Cup men’s soccer qualifying

Canadians last reached the final qualifying round in 1996-97
Canada’s Alphonso Davies (19) goes past Haiti’s Steeven Saba (10) during the first half of a World Cup qualifying soccer match Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in Bridgeview, Ill. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

Helped by an own goal and strikes by Cyle Larin and Junior Hoilett, Canada dispatched Haiti 3-0 on the night Tuesday in Bridgeview, Ill. and 4-0 on aggregate to advance to the final round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF.

The Canadian men, who last reached the final qualifying round in 1996-97 in the lead-up to France ‘98, now join the heavyweights in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean. The eight-country final round includes Mexico (ranked No. 11) the U.S. (No. 20), Jamaica (No. 45), Costa Rica (No. 50) and Honduras (No. 67), who received byes as the top five teams in the region.

The 70th-ranked Canadians joined them the hard way, slogging through two rounds and six games in qualifying. They have earned themselves at least 14 more qualifying matches.

Canada came into Tuesday night’s match at SeatGeek Stadium against No. 83 Haiti needing a win or a draw to advance in the wake of Saturday’s 1-0 win in Port-au-Prince on a 14th-minute goal by Larin.

Canada came on Tuesday as the first half wore on, with a string of late chances off set pieces. But Haiti, despite missing some players who were unable to make the trip, somehow survived the pressure to go into the changing rooms scoreless at halftime with Montreal-born goalkeeper Josue Duverger standing tall.

But a 46th-minute blunder by Duverger extended Canada’s aggregate lead when the ‘keeper misplayed a routine back pass from Kevin LaFrance. Duverger missed the ball with his attempted first touch and, when he went to control it with his right foot, it bounced in off his left as Jonathan David steamed towards him.

Alphonso Davies and David once again proved to be a dangerous combination. Along with Larin, they created plenty of chances but could not finish them — until the 74th minute.

LaFrance was unable to corral a long ball from Alistair Johnston and Larin pounced, beating Ricardo Ade before slipping a shot through Duverger for his 15th goal for Canada

Hoilett made it 3-0 off the bench, knocking in his own rebound in the 89th minute after hitting the goalpost for his 11th international goal.

Milan Borjan got the shutout.

Panama and either El Salvador or St. Kitts and Nevis will join Canada in making it out of the second-round playoffs, the last three teams standing from the 29-country first round.

Earlier Tuesday, No. 78 Panama held No. 76 Curacao to a 0-0 draw for a 2-1 aggregate win. No. 69 El Salvador played No. 135 St. Kitts and Nevis in a later game, holding a 4-0 advantage from the first leg.

The eight teams in the so-called Octagonal final qualifying round will play each other home and away starting in September with the top three finishers booking their ticket to Qatar 2022. The fourth-place team will take part in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.

The hope is pandemic-related travel restrictions will have eased by the fall, allowing Canada to finally play a game at home.

Coach John Herdman made one change to the starting lineup from the first leg on Tuesday. Defender Doneil Henry came in for Richie Laryea with Johnston moving up to wingback. The starting 11 came into the match with a combined 240 caps.

Canada came into the match with an 8-2-2 all-time record against the Haitians.

The Haitian Football Federation said goalkeeper/captain Johny Placide, defenders Alex Christian and Martin Experience, and striker Carnejy Antoine were unable to join the team on the trip because of U.S. COVID-19 travel restrictions. Placide and Christian started in the Port-au-Prince game. Former CF Montreal midfielder Steeven Saba started for Haiti.

As in the first game, the physical Haitians took no prisoners.

Canada had an early appeal for a penalty denied when David went down in the penalty box. But Canada began to turn the screw with David, Davies and Larin making inroads onto the Haiti defence.

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Haiti also had its moments, with several testing corners midway through the half.

David had a good chance in the 24th minute but the 21-year-old Duverger stopped his close-range shot from a tight angle.

Duverger, making himself big at the near post, made three straight saves in one sequence to deny David from in-close in the 33rd minute after Davies dribbled his way into the penalty box and found his teammate.

Canada had chances off a pair of corners late in the half. But headers by Steven Vitoria and Henry hit a defender and flashed wide, respectively.

Defender Carlens Arcus, positioned on the goal line, cleared another Vitoria header off a corner in the 44th minute with Duverger beaten.

Canada had 61 per cent of possession in the first half, outshooting Haiti 8-2 (4-1 in shots on target) with a 7-3 edge in corners.

Duverger regained his composure after the own goal, stopping David in the 54th minute. Soon after, Henry went down from a late challenge by Bryan Alceus, who escaped punishment despite already being on a yellow card. Henry, part of Canada’s back three, played most of the game on a yellow card after being cautioned in the eighth minute for a tackle.

Haiti substitute Derrick Etienne Jr. missed a glorious chance in the 60th, firing a shot after a cross eluded the Canadian defence. Another David shot was cleared off the line by a defender in the 67th minute.

The Canadians had already dispatched Suriname (No. 136), Bermuda (No. 168), the Cayman Islands (No. 194) and Aruba (No. 205) in World Cup qualifying outscoring the five teams 27-1.


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