Canada qualifies for the Copa América with a 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago

FRISCO, Texas –

Canada heads to the Copa América and an important showdown with World Cup champions Argentina.

But it took a while to get there with a well-organized Trinidad and Tobago hard to beat in a CONCACAF Nations League play-off match on Saturday. Second-half goals from Cyle Larin and Jacob Shaffelburg gave Canada a 2-0 victory and a trip to the South American championship as one of six invited CONCACAF teams.

The 96th-ranked Soca Warriors defended resolutely and in numbers as No. 50 Canada advanced in waves.

The Canadians had 63 per cent possession and an 11-1 edge on corner kicks in the first 45 minutes, but couldn’t take advantage.

Interim coach Mauro Biello said his team was calm at half-time.

“They knew we had control of the game and we had to stay on task,” Biello said.

The breakthrough finally came in the 61st minute, when Tajon Buchanan made a save into the penalty area. He lofted the ball to a teammate in traffic and it landed at the feet of Larin, who beat goalie Denzil Smith with a low shot for his Canadian team-high 29th.

It was a job done for Canada, although it took a while to get there. And there were some tense moments when Trinidad pressed late with goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau stopping the dangerous Levi Garcia in the 85th minute.

Shaffelburg hit the post with Smith beaten in the 86th minute. And he relieved the pressure in the 91st minute, firing in a shot for his second Canadian goal when Trinidad’s defense came up short.

Canada is in Group A with top-ranked Argentina, 33rd-ranked Peru and 42nd-ranked Chile in the Copa América, and the Canada-Argentina match will kick off the first match of the tournament on June 20 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“I’m very happy for all our fans, that’s the first and most important thing,” Biello said. “What this means for all of our fans is huge. To be able to be in a Copa América, to play against the world champions. This is what all the football fans and sports fans in this country want to see.”

Canada has played Argentina only once before, losing 5-0 in May 2010 before 66,000 fans in Buenos Aires.

No. 54 Costa Rica played No. 78 Honduras in the second play-in match on Saturday at Toyota Stadium.

Saturday’s game was a must-win for Canada, desperate for good news on the field amid financial questions and uncertainty at Canada Soccer. The Copa America provides an opportunity for elite opposition as the Canadians look ahead to the 2026 World Cup.

The 13th-ranked United States and 15th-ranked Mexico, Canada’s co-hosts in the 2026 soccer showcase, won the CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinals to qualify directly for the Copa América, as did Panama .

Mexico and the United States meet on Sunday in the CONCACAF Nations League final in Arlington, Texas.

Canada came into Saturday’s game with a 7-2-2 record against Trinidad.

The teams were forced to participate in the high-stakes play-in match after losing in the Nations League quarterfinals in November: Canada was defeated by No. 57 Jamaica and Trinidad by the United States, respectively.

The Canadians blew a 3-1 lead against the Reggae Boyz and lost on the away goals rule with the series tied 4-4. The Soca Warriors lost 4-2 despite winning the second leg 2-1 in Port of Spain.

It was a sunny 18C for the mid-afternoon kickoff in a virtually empty Toyota Stadium.

Crepeau earned his 15th cap in his first start for Canada since a World Cup qualifier in Panama in March 2022. Crepeau, now with the Portland Timbers, missed the World Cup in Qatar after breaking his leg. in the 2022 MLS Cup final playing for Los Angeles. FC.

There were some physical moments, leading Mexican referee Marco Ortiz to show four yellow cards in the first half.

As Canada Soccer continues to search for a permanent replacement for John Herdman as coach, Biello has looked ahead to the 2026 World Cup by calling up 10 players with fewer than 10 caps in what he has called a “cultural reset.”

Defender Joel Waterman, who earned his third cap, and forward Ike Ugbo, who earned his ninth cap, were the only single-digit club members in international caps who formed a starting 11 that entered the game with 34 combined international matches.

FC Porto midfielder Stephen Eustaquio captained Canada, who were wearing their new Nike kit.

Shaffelburg, Mathieu Choiniere, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Samuel Piette and Luc de Fougerolles came off the bench for Canada in the second half. It was the Canadian debut for Fougerolles, an 18-year-old Fulham defender.

Halifax Wanderers captain Andre Rampersad started for Trinidad, earning his 12th cap. He was replaced in the 56th minute by newly signed Pacific FC striker Reon Moore.

Canada had never participated in the Copa América before. He was scheduled to participate in the 2001 tournament as a reward for winning the Gold Cup in February 2000. But CONMEBOL, the South American federation, announced on the eve of the competition that it would be postponed until 2002 due to security concerns in the host country, Colombia. .

Five days later, he decided to go ahead with the event as planned. Canada, which had returned its players to their clubs, was replaced by Costa Rica.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2024.

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