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Canadian U23 men one win away from qualifying for the Olympics

It’s all to play for in Guadalajara.

Honduras v Canada - 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Photo by Refugio Ruiz/Getty Images

TORONTO, Canada—Following a second place finish in Group B, the Canadian U23 squad will once again play Mexico in the semifinal of the Olympic Qualifying Championship. Victory in Guadalajara will book Canada’s spot at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, while a defeat will end the dream entirely.

Kickoff is set for 9:06 pm ET on OneSoccer immediately following the senior team’s World Cup Qualifying match vs. Cayman Islands.

Canada finished the group stage unbeaten with one win and two draws to their name. The Reds took all three points against El Salvador and shared the spoils with both Haiti and Honduras in their second and third games. Having just finished behind the Hondurans on goal difference, Canada will need all hands on deck if they are to overcome Group A winners Mexico, a side that won three out of three in the round-robin stages.

Tajon Buchanan will be expected to provide the firepower upfront after scoring two of Canada’s three goals during the group stage. Yet, in order to more effectively test the dogged Mexican defence, Canada will need to ensure they have additional attacking outlets at their disposal.

Mexico are the top scoring team of the tournament with eight so far, and like Canada, have conceded just once in three games. Derek Cornelius and co. will look to keep Sebastián Córdova quiet and maintain The Reds’ strong defensive record that saw them not allow a single shot on target in their first two games.

Buoyed by their unbeaten group stage campaign, David Norman says the squad is in high spirits ahead of a potentially historic night:

“These are the games you want with a chance to play Mexico in Mexico for a spot at the Olympic Games,” Norman said in a press release. “We have a group here that’s ready to make history on Sunday.”

The Canadian men haven’t qualified for the Olympics in 37 years, but head coach Mauro Biello is also confident that his side have what it takes to record a momentous victory:

“We’ve played three matches in a week and they’ve given their all for the shirt and for their country. These boys want it and while they know it is a difficult task ahead, I think it’s going to be something for which they will be ready.”

History certainly isn’t on the side of the red and white. Canada is 0-4-2 against Mexico at the under-23 level in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying since 1992. In fact, no Canadian men’s team has ever beaten Mexico in a competitive match on Mexican soil, making Sunday’s encounter at Jalisco Stadium that much greater of a feat to overcome.

The last meeting between these U23 sides came during the same tournament in 2015, where Mexico recorded a 2-0 win in the semifinal to break Canadian hearts. Moreover, vengeance will firmly be on the minds of every Canadian player ahead of this highly anticipated clash.

A ticket to Tokyo awaits, and Canada’s budding youngsters are just one game away from achieving what no Canadian side has done since 1984.