O Canada! Larin and Buchanan lead team to first men’s World Cup since 1986 | Canada

Oh? Canada? Yes, Canada.

Almost four decades after their only appearance at a men’s World Cup, Canada are back, becoming the first North American nation to secure passage to Qatar 2022.

In the most appropriate style and circumstances, John Herdman’s side, who stunned first their own country and then Concacaf, qualified with an emphatic 4-0 win over Jamaica at a noisy BMO Field. in Toronto. The team sent thousands into the stadium – and millions more across the country – in delight.

The circumstances were right, as the weather gods of the great white north scoffed at the idea of ​​spring and sent freezing snow showers and wild winds off Lake Ontario for this historic Sunday. But the style was also fitting as Herdman, the Englishman who almost single-handedly transformed the country into a men’s footballing nation, saw his side conquer the climate and seal the progress with 90 minutes of frantic counter-attacking.

Just four of a feast of chances were taken, but no matter. After such a long exile, the only thing that counted was the return.

And now, suddenly, bright and bold in brilliant red, here comes Canada. How? ‘Or’ What? Because, quite simply, the past 12 months have been unlike any before for Canadian football. First, the women’s team won gold at the Tokyo Olympics. And all the while, the men were heading towards their first World Cup since 1986.

Sunday marked Canada’s 24th game in exactly 12 months, a barely previous schedule that should have been mind-boggling. It could have strained untested bodies and minds. Instead, it united the team, forging a collective will that shone through one starry (and snowy) night after the next.

A journey that began with victories over the likes of the Cayman Islands behind closed doors has, over the course of a year, accumulated memories for life. Victory in Haiti as they qualified for the final Concacaf qualifying round for the first time since 1998; Alphonso Davies’ incredible goal against Panama; defeat Mexico at the Iceteca; Milan Borjan bellowing as USA were beaten in Hamilton. Now, that moment of Canadian heritage: sealing a spot for the World Cup in squalls and sunshine.

In September, Herdman spoke to the Guardian about the feeling of “freedom” to make history and how “brotherhood” would be what would get them there. The same word kept coming back. There is no doubt that the schedule has helped the Canadian family flourish.

On the eve of this decisive meeting with Jamaica, midfielder Stephen Eustaquio declared that he “will invite all [the team] at my wedding. They are family.

Cyle Larin may have claimed the role of best man after 13 minutes on Sunday as Herdman’s side countered with determination and Eustaquio sent the striker through. He sent it past Andre Blake and Canadian lungs emptied with joy.

Tajon Buchanan added the second a minute before the break, sweeping the ball home – and sweeping a nation off its feet. The west stand at BMO Field swayed as the Canadians jumped for joy. After having had so many opportunities to get to know the team over the past year, their fans are now won over.

The busy schedule was of course also something to be tamed. Herdman did it spectacularly. Of the 23 games before Sunday, Canada had won 16 and drawn four, losing only three times, each by a single goal.

That Davies, the team’s best player, missed seven of 14 qualifiers and spent Sunday shouting his support on social media from Munich tells you how Herdman persuaded so many.

Canada 2021-22 is not Leicester City 2015-16. International and club games are now distant cousins ​​and the latter’s Premier League title was a far bigger shock than Herdman’s side reaching the World Cup. But some similarities are striking. A counter-attacking style confusing vaunted opponents. An unheralded defense seen as a weakness, turning into a strength as veterans and new faces upped their game. A core, yes, but around them a fluid cast that leaned to a mantra” the next man.

Now they are all lifted, to a height not seen for more than a generation. It signifies a new era for football in Canada. And for Concacaf? The continental plates have moved in ways that are unlikely to be temporary. Canada will co-host the 2026 World Cup, and the best players on the team (Davies, David, Buchanan) are still young. Herdman also scouted eligible recruits. Now he has the carrot of consecutive World Cups to dangle. North American football has completely changed.

As if to remind everyone of how far they’ve come, Herdman dispatched captain Atiba Hutchison with half an hour to go on Sunday. The 39-year-old midfielder, in his 20th season with the national team, was showered with affection from the stands as the sun returned.

“You know what… you can play in a Champions League final, the Canadians can play for Bayern Munich and now we’re going to the World Cups,” Herdman said, rubbing his eyes with champagne after getting drenched. by Borjan. “Canada is a footballing nation. You better believe it and we’ll keep coming. We are just getting started.

“It’s just a belief, an absolute belief. The people behind this team, the team behind the team. We have gone through difficult times. This has not been easy. But we did. I’m just happy for these guys. When I took over and said we were going to a World Cup, I don’t think they believed us. All these fans, they’ve been waiting, they’ve been waiting and hanging on to us…and here we go.

The industrious Junior Hoilett added a third and Adrian Mariappa converted one into his own net in the final 10 minutes, but as the snow flurries returned and the Canadian bench rushed onto the pitch at full time, the score seemed almost out of place.

Where are the Canadas? They are here.