TORONTO, Canada—Without Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, and Ayo Akinola—among many other notable names—the Canadian men’s national team still found a way forward, defeating Costa Rica 2-0 on Sunday afternoon to advance to their first CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal in 14 years.
It was a dream start for Canada who began this match on the front foot and were rewarded for their effort in the 18th minute. Leamington, Ontario’s Stephen Eustaquio, who has been so good over the course of this tournament, would show off his passing range, picking out a streaking Junior Hoilett over the top—a good 50-yard pass—and the 31-year-old Brampton, Ontario native made no mistake on the finish, lobbing it over the Costa Rican goalkeeper to give Canada the 1-0 lead.
Finish from Junior was COLD. pic.twitter.com/A4q0Nraw0o— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) July 25, 2021
Despite taking the lead, Canada would not take their foot off the gas pedal, controlling possession thanks to stellar play from Eustaquio and Mark-Anthony Kaye in the heart of the park. When the team did lose possession, the team would quickly close down Costa Rica, not giving their opponents an inch of room, eventually winning the ball back and often times in favourable areas of the park.
In Terry Dunfield’s words, the first half was a ‘masterclass’ for Canada, dictating play from beginning to end. They out-possessed Costa Rica 56 to 44 per cent in the opening 45, also maintaining a significant edge in passing accuracy: 81 per cent to 69 per cent.
The only two real blemishes to the Canadian first half was when centre-back Steven Vitória would pick up a caution in the 31st minute and Lucas Cavallini would also find his name in the book in the 38th minute, meaning neither player will be eligible to partake in Thursday’s semifinals as a result of yellow card accumulation.
Although Costa Rica would start the second half marginally better, once again it would be Canada looking like the more dangerous side. Like in the first half, the majority of the play would take place in the Costa Rican half, and in the 64th minute, Les Rouges would get their much-needed insurance marker, easing the anxiety of Canadian soccer fans tuning into this one.
The goal would come through the best player on the pitch Sunday: none other than Eustaquio, who also assisted the opening goal of the game. The midfielder may have been fortunate, but he’ll take it, hopping on a ricocheted ball at the top of the box to simply slot home his third goal of the tournament, putting Canada ahead 2-0.
Leamington, Ontario native is having himself a game pic.twitter.com/tMZZ06FgJd— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) July 26, 2021
Canada would continue to apply the pressure the rest of the way, forcing several key saves out of Costa Rica’s Esteban Alvarado, but more importantly, keeping the pressure off themselves, giving their opponents no life in this one.
The match would go on to finish 2-0, and with the win on Sunday, Canada advances to the semifinals on Thursday where they’ll face a very dangerous looking Mexican side. Get some coffee in you before that one because kickoff is set for 10 pm ET on OneSoccer.
Another historic night in what has been a historic year overall for the Canadian men’s national team. We move.