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Canada plays host to Panama in WCQ six-pointer

Les Rouges are unbeaten in five, but have won just one game thus far.

Honduras v Canada: 2022 World Cup Qualifying Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

For their final match at BMO Field in 2021, the Canadian men’s national team welcomes Panama to Toronto in a clash that many are now calling a real six-pointer.

Los Canaleros have surprised many during the Octagon, especially after their shock 1-0 win over the United States this past weekend. A high-spirited Panama side will now come up against John Herdman’s men who have their sights set on ending the October camp with a win.

Kickoff at BMO Field is set for 7:30 pm EST, with the game available to watch on both OneSoccer and Sportsnet.

Canada’s memorable draw with Mexico at the Estadio Azteca was followed by a frustrating 0-0 draw in Kingston against Jamaica. Liam Millar had the best chance of the game to seal all three points for the visitors, but the FC Basel forward was denied at point-blank range by Andre Blake.

The feisty affair at Independence Park will have injected some much-needed urgency into Canada ahead of an encounter with Panama that Alphonso Davies and co. can’t afford to drop points in.

A win on Wednesday would see Canada move to at least third in the table. Second place is also on the cards if the US draws or loses to Costa Rica. Les Rouges are also at risk of falling to sixth place if they suffer defeat in Toronto and Costa Rica and El Salvador both record victories.

In his pre-match press conference, Herdman made it clear how important this clash is for his squad:

“We want to win every game. With this group, we’re undefeated and we’ll take pride with that mantle, but at the end of the day, we need points on the board and this is a group that wants to win ... if there’s one game we have to win, it’s this one.”

On home soil in the Octagon, Canada has won one and drawn one while scoring four times and conceding once. With a sold-out crowd (30,000) set to be in attendance at BMO Field for the first time since the pandemic, the atmosphere in the stadium will undoubtedly be something special for both the fans and the players.

In terms of team news, Herdman welcomes Richie Laryea, Tajon Buchanan and Steven Vitória back from suspension, but Lucas Cavallini, Atiba Hutchinson, Cyle Larin and Junior Hoilett will miss out once again.

For Panama, they may be without Christian Martinez on Wednesday as the midfielder hobbled off injured in the final few minutes of his country’s win against the US.

This upcoming fixture will be the 12th in history between Canada and Panama, as well as their first since November 2014.

Seven of their 11 previous encounters finished all square, while the last two games played were both goalless draws.

Les Rouges have won three of those 11 games, most recently in September 2012 where a lone goal from Dwayne De Rosario sealed a 1-0 win for Canada in the penultimate round of 2014 World Cup Qualifying.

Panama’s only win over Canada also came during that qualification tournament as Los Canaleros won 2-0 at the Estadio Rommel Fernández back in September 2012.

Given their results so far, Canada and Panama could be close challengers for a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, so there’s no denying that both sides will be coming into Wednesday’s game in Toronto with nothing but fire in their bellies and victory on their minds.

Predicted Lineups:

Canada: Crépeau; Johnston, Vitória, Miller; Laryea, Eustaquio, Kaye, Buchanan; Osorio, David, Davies

Panama: Mejía; Murillo, Escobar, Cummings, Davis; Godoy, Ayarza; Bárcenas, Quintero, Gondola; Blackburn