Canada earned a 2-1 victory over Japan in their final World Cup tune-up on Thursday after Lucas Cavallini’s last-minute winner from the penalty spot.
Cavallini was the hero his team needed to break the deadlock as John Herdman’s side now set their sights on their first group stage game against Belgium on Wednesday.
Herdman opted for a strong side for the matchup against the four-time AFC Asian Cup champions at the Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. Stephen Eustaquio was left on the bench after picking up a knock in team training, while Alphonso Davies remained in Munich to recover from his hamstring injury.
First-choice goalkeeper Milan Borjan returned between the sticks after Dayne St. Clair deputized in his place in Canada’s previous match, a 2-2 draw with Bahrain on Friday, November 11th.
Borjan was tested early against Japan, failing to deal with a clever finish from winger Yuki Soma in the 9th minute. A lofted ball over the head of Kamal Miller found Soma, who made a quick run in-between Miller and Sam Adekugbe before finding the back of the net.
Japan came close to doubling their lead in the 19th minute when Takefusa Kubo of Real Sociedad whizzed a shot just outside of the right post. The 21-year-old winger failed to convert his effort after finding space to get his shot off.
After some defensive collapse against Bahrain, it was not the start to the match Herdman would’ve been hoping for. The Canadians would respond however, through a set piece opportunity.
Junior Hoilett’s out swinging corner kick in the 21st minute fell to the feet of Miller who struck towards goal. His effort fell to a friendly face in fellow centre back Steven Vitoria. The defender lifted the ball into the net from a couple of yards out to bring Canada back into the match.
Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David created some half chances for themselves as Canada grew into the match, but the honours would be even after 45 minutes played.
It was a second half onslaught from Canada, controlling the match against the Blue Samurai even with the introduction of their standout midfielder Daichi Kamada. Time and time again, the Canadians worked it into dangerous areas but were not clinical enough in front of goal.
Much to the delight of Waking The Red faithful, Herdman introduced a TFC trio into the match in the 60th minute as Richie Laryea, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Jonathan Osorio entered the fold.
Osorio struck from long distance in the 63rd minute, but failed to get his effort on target.
Despite Les Rouges’ best efforts, the match seemed destined for a 1-1 draw, though some hectic final minutes of the game quickly added some uncertainty.
Miki Yamane had Japan’s best chance to find a late winner when he dashed behind Canada’s defence from the right wing and fired a low shot onto the near post. Fortunately for the Canucks, the ball bounced off of the woodwork and in-between Suma and Ayase Ueda who made runs into the box.
The drama would continue into stoppage time as Canada pressed for a final chance. Richie Laryea retrieved the ball in the 18-yard-box from his club teammate Kaye and attempted to get past Yamane at right back. The defender had a forgettable ending to match, missing his shooting chance in the 89th minute before tackling Laryea and being called for a penalty in the 93rd.
Up stepped the recently released Lucas Cavallini to win the match and send his country to the World Cup in high spirits.
The clincher #WeCANpic.twitter.com/LnyVPMHTrY— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) November 17, 2022
The Toronto-born striker went for the spectacular, opting for the panenka on his left foot. The sprawling Shuichi Gonda in the Japanese goal was able to get a palm to it, but was unable to stop it from crossing the goal line.
Cavallini’s winner was his 18th goal for the men’s senior side, making him the outright fourth highest-scoring player in CANMNT history.
After claiming a first win in three attempts against Japan, Canada now turns their attention to their first group stage game against Belgium in Al Rayyan, Qatar on Wednesday, November 23rd.