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Alphonso Davies offers Canada a thrilling glimpse of the future

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The 16-year-old’s stunning start to the Gold Cup is reason enough to start believing in this team again.

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup-French Guiana at Canada Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Take a certain two minutes out of this game and we would be toasting the coming-out party of a new Canadian superstar and early signs of significant improvement shown by our men’s national soccer team.

As it is, Alphonso Davies’ sparkling display against French Guiana rather bailed his new nation out. It may sound cynical to say it will not be the last time he does so, but it is actually a statement tinged with great optimism.

If this night in front of a sparse crowd at Red Bull Arena proves to be the start of what it is hoped Davies can achieve in a Canada jersey, it will be remembered for years to come. The 16-year-old is now the youngest player to ever score at the Gold Cup and the first born post-2000 to net at a major international tournament.

He will face many tougher opponents than French Guiana, who left acres of space behind their defence into which he dashed to score the first of his two goals on the night.

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup-French Guiana at Canada Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The breakneck speed with which he carried the ball beyond that back line, though, and the composure he showed to slot his shot past goalkeeper Donovan Leon were fit for any football pitch in the world.

That finish made it 3-0 to Canada and at that point, Octavio Zambrano’s men had hit an exciting stride. Milan Borjan’s goal had rarely been troubled and - as Zambrano had talked about before the match - the defensive solidity Canada were establishing was slowly feeding confidence into their attacking players.

Dejan Jakovic’s opening goal certainly helped to speed up that process and though the finish was fortunate, Scott Arfield’s superb delivery had earned a stroke of luck.

After that, the tempo in Canada’s game went up. More quick passes into the channels and behind the defence were attempted. Michael Petrasso, a winger filling in at right-back, started to come into the action as an overlapping threat.

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup-French Guiana at Canada Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It was one of those direct, purposeful balls that led to the Canadians’ second goal. Arfield headed a charge upfield and when his attempted through ball to Lucas Cavallini was cut out, the Burnley midfielder jumped back into possession and fired a left-footed shot beyond Leon.

Canada picked up where they left off after half-time and when Davies added a third goal, all seemed to be well in the world.

Cavallini had put in an admirable shift of hold-up play as the No. 9, assisting Davies’ third. Arfield was a force through the midfield and Junior Hoilett crafty on the right. The defence had been solid and well protected by Samuel Piette and Davies was Davies; one minute a steam train and the next a ballet dancer.

It was, of course, going just a little bit too well.

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup-French Guiana at Canada Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It started with Borjan taking an elbow to the face. The goalkeeper’s eye swelled up and though he would attempt to play through it, Montreal Impact backup Maxime Crepeau was eventually called upon.

Patrice Bernier was also withdrawn and though the veteran had not had the best game of his career, he has a tendency to know where to be both to keep his team solid and ensure the ball continues to move efficiently. Canada’s grip on the game slipped - if only briefly - when he came off.

French Guiana, to their credit, sensed their opportunity and two simple balls into the box resulted in two goals, with Crepeau’s role in both concerning should Borjan not be ready to face Costa Rica.

That left Canada reeling for a few moments as the stadium filled up with rain and Costa Rican and Honduran fans arriving for the later fixture, but Davies came through as players of his gifts tend to. His second shot of the night brought a second goal, dispatched emphatically after a fine run from substitute Anthony Jackson-Hamel.

Canada may not have quite shed the self-destructive tendencies of previous years just yet, but there was far more cause for optimism here than gloom. Those not ready to shed their cynicism might find that before long, Davies forces them to.