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Canada host Costa Rica as World Cup Qualifying kicks off in Edmonton

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The Reds are looking to stay undefeated through seven matches.

Tajon Buchanan against Panama at BMO Field
Photo by Sean Pollock/Waking The Red

And just like that we’re approaching the halfway point of the Octagon. Time really does fly when you’re having fun! To round off the first half of the Octagon, Canada will face off against Costa Rica in Edmonton this Friday at 7:05 pm local time (9:05 pm EST).

In the first of two matches at Commonwealth Stadium during the November international break, Canada will go up against Costa Rica with a massive opportunity to further cement their position in the top three of the table. With a tough test against Mexico on the horizon, collecting all three points against Costa Rica will surely be the goal for John Herdman and his squad.

As things stand, Canada is in third place, two points ahead of Panama in fourth. A win against Costa Rica would bring Canada up to second place if the United States drop points at home to Mexico on Friday.

It is set to be a special atmosphere in Edmonton as the city will be playing host to the Canadian Men’s National Team for the first time since May 2013. That last match just so happened to be a friendly against Costa Rica which Canada lost 1-0. Canadian phenom and Edmontonian Alphonso Davies will also be making his homecoming and the 40,000 plus in attendance will surely be cheering him on throughout the match.

This upcoming encounter will mark the first time the two sides meet since their Gold Cup quarter-final this past summer when Canada won 2-0. Canadian supporters will be hoping for a similar display this week as Canada dominated their last matchup, showcasing their defensive capabilities by not allowing a single shot on target.

FBL-CONCACAF-GOLD-CRC-CAN

Though it was four weeks ago, Canada are coming off the back of a momentous 4-1 victory over Panama. After a high-scoring match which featured that goal from Davies, Canada are definitely riding a high and should be full of confidence ahead of their Edmonton home stand. The hype around the national team is at an all-time high and the players will now have to deal with higher expectations as qualification for the World Cup in Qatar becomes more attainable.

Playing the role of underdog this Friday, CONCACAF heavyweights Costa Rica have experienced a somewhat poor start to their qualifying campaign. Though Los Ticos are only four points behind Canada in the standings, they have really struggled to score throughout the final round of qualifying. This lack of cutting edge has resulted in poor results such as the two goalless draws against Honduras and El Salvador. On the plus side, Costa Rica have shown a defensive solidity, only allowing five goals in their first six games so far.

Costa Rica will have to work hard to subdue Canada’s attacking talents and the task will be even tougher as the visitors will be without their star goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who is missing out due to an elbow injury. Fullbacks Cristian Gamboa and Rónald Matarrita are also missing from the Costa Rican squad due to injury.

The news on the Canadian front is a little more positive to say the least. National team captain Atiba Hutchinson, as well as his fellow Besiktas teammate Cyle Larin, will both be back with the team after missing the last three qualifiers. Red Star Belgrade shot-stopper Milan Borjan is also back with the team after recovering from a bout with COVID in October.

In addition to the key players returning from injury, Les Rouges will have a fresh face within their ranks for the November qualifying cycle. Ike Ugbo, a promising striker who plays for Genk of Belgium has recently committed to Canada Soccer and will be taking part in his first camp with his new teammates. It’s unlikely he plays many minutes in Edmonton, especially with Larin back in the mix, but if Canada are in search of a late goal against Costa Rica or Mexico, Ugbo might make his Canada debut off of the bench.

You can watch the match on Sportsnet or OneSoccer.

Predicted Lineups:

Canada: Borjan; Johnston, Vitória, Miller; Buchanan, Hutchinson, Eustaquio, Laryea; Osorio, David, Davies

Costa Rica: Moreira; Fuller, Duarte, Calvo, Oviedo; Tejeda, Borges, Campbell, Ruiz, Venegas; Ortiz