You could almost hear Alphonso Davies’ celebrations from Germany. Or you could actually hear the screams as you follow his live stream on Twitch.
While Tajon Buchanan started on the right wing with Johnathan David in the 10th minute of Canada’s World Cup qualifier against Honduras on Thursday, Davies forced to the sidelines for his country’s next three matches while dealing with a myocarditis diagnosis. , asked to be impressed.
“Tajon, let me see something,” Davies said on the stream.
As if on cue, Buchanan delivered.
The Brampton native, who played a transition role from fullback to wing, designed Canada’s match winner. A move that started not far into Honduras’ half ended with Buchanan grabbing two defenders and knocking on a driving force in the box, with four innings along the way. He cut a ball back with force, just shy of the sideline and it was too hot to handle for Honduran defender Denil Maldonado, who diverted it past his own goalkeeper. Own goal.
It was Canada’s first win in Honduras since 1985, only the team’s second in the country. The eventual 2-0 victory ensured Canada remained at the top of the standings through nine of 14 qualifying matches, and continued to set the pace for the United States and Mexico, who also won that evening. Panama’s 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica means that five points now separate Canada and fourth place on the points ladder, with the top three teams automatically heading to Qatar 2022 at the end of the qualifiers.
The focus in the game was on the left wing. Davies, the best player in the CONCACAF region, would not be there, as he has been for seven of Canada’s eight previous World Cup qualifiers. Canada’s star was ruled out almost two weeks earlier due to inflammation of the heart muscle.
Can a Canadian team without Davies meet the pre-match consensus that this group is more than its best player? Led by Buchanan, but not on his own, the Canadian did just enough.
Coach John Herdman covered his bases through committee. Buchanan and Samuel Adekugbe were given the task of covering much ground on the wings. Up front, Herdman went for a trio with firepower and played Junior Hoilett behind Cyle Larin and David.
The core of the match was veterans Atiba Hutchinson (38) and Samuel Piette (27), who similarly accounted for an absence, with Stephen Eustáquio from the group after he apparently tested positive for COVID-19.
Speed and cleverness on the wings, a variety of weapons up front, physicality and calmness in the middle. Herdman found the right comparison, even with his two most important players left out.
The coach started the match believing that he had a number of players hungry to step into the spotlight that Davies and Eustáquio had so often ordered through these heats.
“It’s a special story that takes place here and it seems like every man can contribute on the journey,” Herdman said.
Milan Borjan, Canada’s longtime goalkeeper, was among those who found another level on Thursday. Had it not been for Borjan, Buchanan’s goal would never have stood as the match winner. Honduras, in a battle to keep their World Cup hopes alive after last playing in the qualifying standings, acted in the dying moments of the first half and drove a frenetic pace until David Canada’s second goal in the 73rd minute achieved.
Borjan went one-on-one with Romell Quioto just before half-time and blocked a header from Antony Lozano in the 56th minute, but it was a through-the-finger save of a Honduras free-kick in the 70th minute that would go. as Borjan’s best qualification so far.
And that paved the way for David’s best goal of qualifying to date. The striker controlled a long ball from substitute Liam Fraser with his chest, with his next touch pushing the ball forward and scoring on his third, a half volley that calmed some fast-growing nerves doubled Canada’s lead .
“Johnny… Come on, man,” Davies shouted on his live stream.
He was there in spirit, Davies, if not personally. But Thursday night, Canada was fine without him.
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