Honduras .... (0)0 .... Canada .... (1)2
Canada exorcised the memory of their 2012 World Cup qualifying visit to San Pedro Sula slotting in two goals without reply to stay on course for Qatar.
It will have been particularly sweet for three members of the present-day squad who suffered throughout that 1-8 humiliation almost ten years ago. Besiktas’ Atiba Hutchinson on-field throughout all of the 90 minutes back then, Lucas Cavallini a substitute introduced to the action with his side six goals down and Milan Borjan, the goalkeeper who was probably relieved to only be back-up for hapless Lars Hirschfeld on that fateful day.
Canadian hopes and dreams of appearing on the world’s greatest sporting stage have now turned emphatically to expectancy after this latest success, capped and confirmed by Jonathan David’s 73rd minute clincher. Combining explosive pace and delicate touch, the Lille striker’s beautifully caressed finish left those in his wake, and Luis Lopez in goal, bewildered and beaten.
It’s never easy in Honduras and so it wasn’t either last night. Cue Herdman’s post-match comment, “We bent at times but we didn’t break.” Simply Canada, trusting in their ability to hurt on the break, were calm and in control throughout.
They still needed 2012’s benched goalkeeper to come up big, Borjan producing two cat-like leaps to deny the white shirts, the first preserving a delicate 1-0 lead, the second coming right at the death.
There were set-backs before a ball was kicked. Star man Alphonso Davies, diagnosed post-Covid with myocarditis, is out for all of this window, and Porto’s Stephen Eustaquio, another key player, wasn’t cleared to play after testing positive for Covid at the weekend.
Herdman backed his squad. The personnel may have changed, the pattern which has served so well in this qualifying campaign, didn’t. The English coach started Larin and the brilliant Buchanan up front. Adekugbe occupied the wide left position and Piette slotted into central midfield alongside ageless Atiba Hutchinson, winning his 91st cap.
It was Buchanan’s probing which resulted in the 10th minute goal which settled everyone down. A series of step-overs confused Rodriguez, effectively unbalancing his back four and forcing the unfortunate Maldonado to put through his own goal.
Herdman however was forced to make a change before the break. Montreal’s Sam Piette making his first start since the last road game in Jamaica was the victim of a clumsy tackle on 39. His replacement, Liam Fraser would go on to play a key role in determining victory.
Jonathan David will rightly be remembered for his exquisite, decisive execution later in the game however he squandered a couple of more than acceptable chances soon after the restart. You wondered if it would not be his night until the afore-mentioned Fraser supplied the pass of the evening, perfectly turning defence into attack in an instant. David still had much to do before tucking away his most difficult opportunity of the contest, the ball arcing high over Lopez and not bouncing until it was in the goal.
A quality squad continues to develop. It’s far from previous, well-organized but limited, incarnations, which defended stoutly and hoped to nick one on the break. This Canada has an identity, one in which goals are expected. Devastating, razor-sharp counter-attacking thrusts are it’s trademark.
Since the last international window, Buchanan has debuted in Belgium for Club Brugge, Eustaquio has left Pacos de Ferreira for much-bigger Porto and Richie Laryea bid good-bye to Toronto, destination the English Championship with Nottingham Forest.
They’re creating records and slaying hoodoos. Last night was a first win in Honduras for 37 years. Some of their best players were missing, a scenario in past decades that would’ve presented a daunting prospect.
Last night, Herdmen’s men didn’t even flinch.
Honduras: L Lopez - Quaye (K Lopez, 84), Maldonaldo, Figueroa, D Rodriguez - Elis, Arriaga, Media, E Rodriguez, Quioto - Lozano (Moya, 63)
Coach: H Gomez
Canada: Borjan - Johnston, Vitoria, Kennedy (Miller, 81) - Adekugbe, Piette (Fraser, 39), Hutchinson, Buchanan - David (Cavallini, 81), Hoilett (Osorio, 61) - Larin (Laryea, 62)
Coach: J Herdman
Match Officials -
Referee: D Parchment (JAM)
Asst Refs: C Wales (TTO), J Kerr (JAM)
4th Official: J Torres (CRC)