Canada bolsters 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification hopes with win over USA

Canada took a giant step towards their first World Cup qualification in 36 years on Sunday after claiming a surprise 2-0 victory over arch-rivals USA in the CONCACAF qualifiers.

A Cyle Larin goal after just seven minutes and an added-time effort from Sam Adekugbe secured the three points for the Canadians on an icy Tim Hortons pitch in Hamilton to extend the home side’s lead atop the standings of CONCACAF.

The undefeated Canadians now have 22 points in four games with four games remaining, taking a four-point lead over second-placed United States with 18 points.

Canada emerged as the surprise group from the Central America, North America and Caribbean qualifying region and are now firmly on track for only their second trip to the World Cup after reaching the Mexico final in 1986.

“We are becoming a country of football,” Canada’s English coach John Herdman said afterwards.

“(USA) are a great team, a very good team, they had great quality today. But we matched their spirit.

“And that’s what I told our guys – we have our own quality, and it came to fruition.”

Striker Larin has admitted a World Cup spot is within reach.

“We’re almost there,” he said. “But we never settle for anything. We will keep pushing.”

Mexico, who will face Costa Rica in Mexico City later on Sunday, can edge out the second-place United States with a win.

The top three teams from the eight-team round robin automatically qualify for this year’s final in Qatar.

– ‘The result hurts’ –

But the loss puts pressure on US coach Gregg Berhalter, whose side face Honduras at home on Wednesday ahead of the tricky final three games in March, which includes away trips to Mexico and Costa Rica and a game at home against Panama.

“It’s hard for me to remember such a dominant performance away from home without getting a result,” Berhalter said afterwards. “The result hurts, the performance doesn’t hurt.”

The United States, in a bid to atone for their shock failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, dominated possession and territory on Sunday but fell behind after a defensive lapse that allowed the based striker in Turkey Larin to return the host in the lead.

A goal kick from Matt Turner was won by Kamal David, who headed forward.

Larin collected too easily just outside the American penalty area and played a neat brace with Lille striker Jonathan David before knocking out American defender Miles Robinson and beating Turner.

It would be Canada’s only significant chance on goal for the remainder of the half, with the United States enjoying the lion’s share of possession thereafter.

But for all the territorial dominance of the United States, the Americans were unable to make it count, not finding the incisiveness in the attack to trouble the Canadian defense.

Chelsea striker Christian Pulisic seemed like the most likely source of invention for the United States, but he was often isolated and the victim of harsh Canadian tackles.

The Americans finally managed a shot on goal two minutes before halftime.

A Pulisic corner was met by a firm header from Weston McKennie, but Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan reacted superbly to swing the effort under the bar.

The second half followed a similar pattern, with the United States having plenty of the ball without really testing the Canadian defence.

As the game wore on USA became more and more erratic and sunk in injury time, the host cleared with defender Adekugbe breaking free and rushing towards the goal before going over Turner for 2-0.

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