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Preview: Canada are 90 minutes away from reaching the final round of World Cup Qualifying

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Job’s not finished though...

Suriname v Canada Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Following their first leg victory on Saturday, Canada is just one match away from booking a place in CONCACAF’s final round of FIFA World Cup Qualifying for the first time in 24 years. The Reds “host” Haiti and will come into the game with a 1-0 lead on aggregate.

As it stands, Canada, along with El Salvador and Panama, will join the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and Jamaica as the CONCACAF nations fighting to finish in one of the three automatic qualification spots for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The game will take place at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois, the same venue where Canada beat Suriname 4-0. Kickoff is set for 9:00 p.m. EST with the game available to stream on OneSoccer.

Cyle Larin’s goal in the opening 15 minutes was enough to give Canada a narrow but important 1-0 victory at the Stade Sylvio Cator in Port-au-Prince. The 26-year-old bagged his sixth goal of the WCQ campaign and his 14th overall for the Canadian national team. Larin is now just two goals away from becoming Canada’s all-time leading goalscorer in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, as he looks to pass Alex Bunbury and his 11 strikes.

Canada’s vital away goal means that a win or a draw in the second leg will be enough to progress to the final round of qualifying. Despite being ahead on aggregate though, the tie is far from over.

If Haiti win 1-0, then the game will go to extra time and possibly penalties. The Grenadiers can progress in 90 minutes if they win by a goal margin of one and score at least two, or if they win by two goals or more.

In the first leg, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Stephen Eustaquio were arguably Canada’s best players, with the pair serving as the Reds’ engine and creative catalysts throughout the game. Eustaquio played the full 90 and finished the game with 90% pass accuracy, as well as seven recoveries and five tackles. His partner in crime, Kaye, also put in a lively and spirited performance in the middle of the park, which included that stunning pass to Jonathan Osorio, who then set up Canada’s winner.

While Kaye and Eustaquio thrived, the talismanic duo of Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David failed to replicate their impeccable performance from the drubbing of Suriname. Canada’s two poster boys exchanged only seven passes between them, as Haiti made sure Davies was not given any room to influence the game. The Bundesliga title winner was moved to the right flank in the second half, but was once again subject to Haiti’s dogged defensive efforts.

Fresh off of his hat-trick against Suriname, David would have hoped to get on the scoresheet for the third straight game, but Haiti goalkeeper Johny Placide denied the 21-year-old a 16th national team goal in 15 games.

At the back, Scott Kennedy had his work cut from him as he proved a major thorn in Haiti’s pursuit of an equalizer. Milan Borjan was also pivotal to Canada’s solid defensive performance, most notably producing a sensational save to deny Frantzdy Pierrot’s acrobatic effort early in the second half. The Reds thus kept their fourth consecutive clean sheet and have conceded just once in their five WCQ games so far.

While Canada’s revenge mission still is half-complete, Haiti will look to channel their 2019 Gold Cup energy given they have a first leg deficit to overturn if they are to keep their World Cup aspirations alive. Jean-Jacques Pierre’s men know that they not only need to score to stay in the tie, but they also cannot afford to concede. With just three wins in their last 10 games, Haiti have quite the uphill task against a Canada side that has not had this much momentum behind them in years.

The win in Port-au-Prince was Canada’s eighth win in 12 total games against Haiti. The Reds have also recorded eight victories in their last 10 matches and in turn, firmly have the wind in their sail ahead of the return leg. A Canadian triumph in Bridgeview would see Haiti become the the fifth nation in history (joining the USA, Guatemala, Cuba and Jamaica) to have been beaten at least nine times by Canada.

In his post-match interview on Saturday, Herdman was adamant that the job is not at all done and that his team has all eyes on “getting to the octagon”:

“As far as leg one - that’s job done, mission complete. Now it’s back to Chicago to finish the job.”

There is still at least 90 minutes of soccer left to play, but with morale continuing to rise, the Canadian men’s national team are edging ever closer to the final round of FIFA World Cup Qualifying.