The referee gave his final whistle. Canada’s men clinched their first World Cup appearance since 1986 with a 4-0 win over Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto. The sold-out, flag-waving crowd of 29,122, which had stood in the freezing cold and swirling winds for most of the match, suddenly realized, with a release of pure emotion, that together, they had finally earned their moment in the sun.
Cyle Larin, Canada’s all-time leading men’s goalscorer, who opened the scoring in the 13th minute on Sunday when heading home a beautifully weighted ball from Stephen Eustáquio, joined the celebration crowd before stepping down , walking to an empty patch of grass near the sideline and wiping the tears from his eyes.
Goalkeeper Milan Borjan, whose family fled the Croatian War of Independence to come to Canada when he was 13, got down on one knee, then got up and raised both fists in the air , before collapsing again, this time. in the arms of his teammates.
“It’s just amazing,” he said afterwards. “Just an amazing feeling.”
Head coach John Herdman, having taken both the men’s and women’s programs to their greatest heights, becoming arguably the most important footballing figure in the country’s history, embraced everyone within reach.
“I’m just a snotty-nosed kid from Consett, County Durham, doing what I love, with people I love,” he said, his smile as wide as a ocean. “And we did it. We f—ing did it!”
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Jonathan Osorio pulled a bass drum out of the crowd and carried it to midfield, where he led a drum chant before struggling to find the words to describe the moment.
“As a Canadian kid, dreaming of something like that was impossible,” he said, his jaw shaking with cold or emotion, it was hard to know which. “To see it come to fruition is amazing. It’s a dream come true. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
Alphonso Davies, the undisputed star of this team, who missed the last five qualifiers following an episode of COVID-induced myocarditis, broadcast his reaction live from his Munich club on Twitch: “Done!” he had said at the final whistle, then he had started to cry and fell on his back on the ground. “Oh my God, yes,” he said, having almost completely disappeared from view. “Yes. Oh my God.”
Tajon Buchanan, all 23, had done a cartwheel and backflip after scoring Canada’s second goal just before half-time to make the whimsical conclusion to the trip a foregone conclusion. Now he celebrated again, shouting to the sky in the seconds before it was filled with fireworks.
Junior Hoillet, a calm and steady presence in the locker room and on the pitch throughout Canada’s qualifying campaign, and the scorer of his team’s third goal in the 79th minute – turning an old impossibility into a wonderful certainty – is fell to his knees, got up, then changed his mind and fell back to his knees.
Sam Adekugbe, who made the iconic leap into an Edmonton snowdrift in November’s decisive win over Mexico and became one of this team’s up-and-coming heroes – his run and cross led to fourth Canada’s goal, an own goal by Jamaica – walked around dazedly, hands over mouth and cheeks frozen with tears.
Alistair Johnston donned the same commemorative t-shirt as his teammates: WE CAN, he said on the front. The defensive stalwart played in League1 Ontario just three years ago and will now play in front of millions of soccer fans around the world. “Holy shit, guys! he shouted to friends he found in the crowd. “I’m so excited!”
‘This is the world to me’
Atiba Hutchinson, who at 39 had been slow to convince himself to make his fifth attempt to help Canada qualify for the World Cup he feared would never come, and who heard the whole stadium chanting ‘ATIBA, ATIBA’ when he came on as a second-half substitute, returned the love afterwards, blowing kisses to the last of the crowd before heading down the tunnel to join the party that would continue late into the night .
In the bustling dressing room, champagne was soon pouring from the ceiling. Outside, a light snow has started to fall. The stadium emptied. The sun began to set.
“We couldn’t really imagine this years ago,” Hutchinson said.
Now the picture couldn’t be clearer.