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Preview: Canada’s Gold Cup campaign continues against Costa Rica in the quarter-finals

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Les Rouges are looking to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2007.

Canada v Martinique: Group B - 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

For the third consecutive tournament, the Canadian men’s national team is in the last eight of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Dispatching Martinique and Haiti in the group stage was enough for John Herdman’s men to book their place in the quarter-finals, where they will take on the winner of Group C, Costa Rica.

Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm EST at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with the game available to stream on OneSoccer.

Despite narrowly missing out on top spot in Group B, Canada can reflect on a very positive start to the tournament. The pair of 4-1 wins against Martinique and Haiti respectively showcased the squad’s hunger for goals, and in spite of the 1-0 defeat to the United States, Les Rouges’ valiant performance highlighted that this Canada side can indeed compete with the best of the bunch.

Costa Rica, who finished top of their group with three wins from three, is into the knockout stages for the 12th straight time. As just one of two teams with a 100% record in this year’s competition, they have clearly established themselves as one of the tournament favourites following the conclusion of the group stage.

The winner of this quarter-final clash will face Mexico in the last four.

On the injury front, Canada will unfortunately be without Cyle Larin and Ayo Akinola for the rest of the competition.

Both forwards picked up injuries during the 1-0 loss to The States, and sadly for Akinola, he looks set to be out of commission for quite some time. The TFC striker tore his ACL and as a result, is out indefinitely.

Larin, who is currently the tournament’s joint-top scorer with three goals, has a less serious injury to his quad that will reportedly keep him out for 2-3 weeks.

Orlando City SC’s Calgary-born forward Tesho Akindele has now been called up as an injury replacement ahead of the knockout stages. This won’t be the 29-year-old’s first Gold Cup as he was a part of Canada’s 23-man squad in 2015.

Along with Akindele, Herdman also has the likes of Lucas Cavallini, Tyler Pasher, Theo Corbeanu, Junior Hoilett and Tajon Buchanan as possible attacking options.

In other team news, Stephen Eustáquio, who scored twice in two games during the group stage, will be available for selection after serving his one-match suspension. Now that we’re in the knockout rounds, yellow cards have been reset, which means Alistair Johnston, Steven Vitória, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Liam Fraser and Lucas Cavallini are all not at risk of missing Canada’s potential semi-final match if they get booked on Sunday.

As for Costa Rica, defenders Francisco Calvo and Kendall Waston are both back in the fold after they missed the win over Jamaica through suspension. Yet, “La Sele” will be without goalkeeper Leonel Moreira who is serving a one-match ban following his red card against the Reggae Boyz.

National team veterans Celso Borges and Joel Campbell currently lead Costa Rica on the goalscoring front with two goals each.

Sunday’s quarter-final clash will be the 22nd between Canada and Costa Rica, with Les Rouges having recorded just four total wins against the Central American nation. 1985 was the year these two countries first met, and victory went to Costa Rica, who recorded a 1-0 friendly win.

Canada has not met Costa Rica since the 2017 Gold Cup, where a 1-1 draw was played out during the group stage. Four of their last five meetings, dating back to September 2007, have finished in a tie.

The last time Canada beat Costa Rica was during the 2007 edition of CONCACAF’s primary international competition, as a Julian De Guzman brace steered Les Rouges to a 2-1 win in the opening game of the group stage.

In 2021, Canada has won eight of their nine matches, while Costa Rica’s opening group stage win against Guadeloupe was their first triumph of the year after one draw (friendly v Bosnia) and four loses (friendlies v Mexico and the USA, CONCACAF Nations League v Mexico and Honduras) in their five matches leading up to the Gold Cup.

It is safe to say that this Canadian men’s national team squad has a lot to look forward to. A Costa Rican hurdle is just the start of an enthralling rest of 2021 (World Cup Qualifying!) for Canada.

With Les Rouges three wins away from Gold Cup glory, Herdman’s men will have nothing but victory on their minds not only in Sunday’s quarter-final, but hopefully for the remainder of the tournament as well.