The under 23's missed out on the Olympics, the senior team missed out on the Hex, the under 20's missed out on the World Cup. Not the under 17's though, despite going behind twice to Jamaica in their quarter final, they came back and in the end got a comfortable victory to punch their ticket to the United Arab Emirates for the World Cup in October/November this year.
There was certainly some tension to it early on though, Jamaica took the lead within 5 minutes, Khalli Stewart hitting a sharp shot past Marco Carducci. That's roughly when my stream crapped out on me, but watching the highlights at half time assured me that Canada were clearly the better team in the first half, creating chances without finishing it off. I got things going again just in time to see Marco Bustos hitting a shot off the post that bounced away to safety. The rebounds would get a lot kinder to Canada after that one.
The equaliser came in the 38th minute, a header from Andrew Gordon hit the bar and bounced straight up and back down. Gordon followed his header in, jumped at it and though he missed his header, the ball bounced in, though whether it was his body or the Jamaican defender it went in off is up for debate, personally I'd be giving it to OG.
Shortly after that though, Jamaica took the lead again, Khalli Stewart danced between a couple of defenders on the left corner of the box and fired a shot off. It might have been on target, but it took a pretty serious deflection and looped in over a wrong footed Carducci. 2-1 at half time and definitely time for doubts to creep in, and they only grew as we got past the hour mark without much of note happening in the second half, Canada not really creating many opportunities. In the 62nd minute, Sean Fleming brought on Jordan Hamilton and that looks like a bit of a masterstroke really as from there, everything went Canada's way.
It was Hamilton who set up the equaliser, a good run down the left and a cross in to Hanson Boakai, scorer of that fantastic goal vs Costa Rica. His shot came back off the post, but fortunately right back to him and he made no mistake with his second attempt, calmly sidefooting it home. That was after 64 minutes, and Canada went ahead for the first time in the 76th minute. Bustos put in a fantastic cross that Gordon headed on target. The initial effort was saved, but again the rebound fell kindly, right to Gordon who buried his second of the night.
It was Hamilton who put the game out of reach a few minutes later, with no rebound needed this time, a cross came in from the right and he sent a looping header over the goalie to make it 4-2 and from there, Canada cruised home with no real worries. Cue the celebrations.
So that's the main job done, a world cup place secured for the second straight tournament, but there's still plenty to play for in this tournament. Next up is the semi final, against the winner of Panama vs Trinidad & Tobago (who Canada beat 2-0 in the group stages), that game was 1-1 in the 55th minutes as I write this, then there'll be the final, more than likely against Mexico or the US.
Winning the whole thing, or even just getting to the final would be a good achievement, a feather in the cap, but even if that doesn't happen, Fleming and his team can be proud of themselves. You could say it was a fortunate draw that Canada received, but they did what they needed to do to top the group and ensure a favourable quarter final where they again did what they needed to do, twice battling back from a goal down to eventually get the result.
Yes we had to go all the way down to the under 17 level, but Canada finally has some men heading to a World Cup. That deserves some celebrating. Here's the highlights and post game reaction.