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36 Years In The Making: Canada Becomes First Concacaf Nation To Secure World Cup Place

A capacity crowd of 30,000 was on hand in Toronto on Sunday to watch Canada become the first Concacaf nation to earn its place at the 2022 World Cup with a 4-0 victory over Jamaica.

If the highpoint of Canada's campaign was that legendary 2-1 victory over Mexico in Edmonton back in November, it was fitting that the Canucks ultimately booked their ticket to Qatar in light snow and 20-degree weather on Sunday. But the elements and feel-good narratives (a first World Cup finals appearance since 1986) shouldn't detract from the fact that they are, as the table unequivocally shows, the region's best team.

No other nation has scored more (23) or conceded less (six) in the Octagonal, and Canada's mission was over inside 45 minutes at BMO Field.

Beşiktaş striker Cyle Larin scored his Concacaf-leading 13th of the cycle to start the party in the 13th minute. Stephen Eustáquio provided the assist. 

Alphonso Davies, who returned to training with Bayern Munich this past week as he recovers from an inflammatory heart condition, approved. 

Shortly before half-time Tajon Buchanan scored at the back post to cement Canada's place.  

Junior Hoilett added a third in the 82nd minute and Buchanan got the assist.

It was 4-0 in the 88th after an own goal by Jamaica's Adrian Mariappa.

It's an incredible story after a 36-year wait but it's not out of nowhere. 

The attacking talents of Davies, Jonathan David and Larin have never been a secret, and there are a number of highly regarded veterans — midfielders Atiba Hutchinson and Jonathan Osorio, keeper Milan Borjan and defender Steven Vitória — who still have vital roles on this team. There's also been an emergence of players who've proven among the best in Concacaf, like Buchanan and Eustáquio, over the past two years.

But it's one thing to have the pieces, it's another to put them all together like Canada manager John Herdman has.

We saw glimpses of it all coming together when Canada defeated the U.S. in the 2019-20 Nations League and when they took Mexico to the brink in the semifinals of the Gold Cup, but Herdman has now orchestrated a commanding qualifying cycle that's included home wins over Mexico, the United States and Costa Rica and draws in both Mexico City and Nashville.   

The perfect example of how difficult the process can be was Sunday's opponent, Jamaica. The Reggae Boyz began qualifying with a lot of noise off the pitch when it became clear that the likes of Michail Antonio, Leon Baily, Andre Gray and Liam Moore were all interested in call-ups, but they've only managed one win all cycle. They were more than accommodating opponents in Toronto. 

Still, it was never supposed to be this easy for Canada. Everyone thought they might have what it takes to finish third or fourth, but they certainly weren't supposed to finish above both Mexico and the United States.

We'll likely see experts doing something similar when it's time to make World Cup group stage predictions — they'll pencil Canada in for a third or fourth-place finish while talking about how they've never won a game or even scored a goal at a World Cup finals.

Here in Concacaf, we'll be ready to say "told you so" after Canada makes the Round of 16.

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