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Canada qualifies for Copa America with 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago


Canada heads to the Copa America and a marquee clash against World Cup champions Argentina.

But it took time to get there with a well-organized Trinidad and Tobago difficult to break through in a CONCACAF Nations League play-off match on Saturday. Second-half goals from Cyle Larin and Jacob Shaffelburg earned Canada a 2–0 victory and a trip to the South American championship as one of six invited CONCACAF teams.

The Soca Warriors, ranked 96th, defended resolutely and in numbers as Canada, 50th, came into play in waves.

The Canadians had 63 percent possession and an 11-1 lead in the corners through the first 45 minutes, but couldn’t get anything out of it.

Interim coach Mauro Biello said his team was calm at the break.

“They knew we had control of the game and we just had to stay focused on our task,” Biello said.

The breakthrough finally came in the 61st minute when Tajon Buchanan headed to the penalty box. He threw the ball towards a teammate in traffic and it landed at the feet of Larin, who beat goalkeeper Denzil Smith with a low shot to score his Canadian men’s record 29th goal.

It was a job accomplished for Canada, even if it took time to get there. And there were tense moments when Trinidad pressed late, with goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau stopping the dangerous Levi Garcia in the 85th minute.

Shaffelburg fired a shot off the goal post and Smith was beaten in the 86th minute. And he eased the pressure in the 91st minute, firing a shot for Canada’s second goal as Trinidad’s defense was caught back.

Canada is placed in Group A with number one Argentina, number 33 Peru and number 42 Chile at the Copa America, with the Canada-Argentina match kicking off the tournament on June 20 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“I’m super happy for all our fans, that’s first and foremost,” Biello said. “What this means for all our fans is huge. To be able to compete in a Copa America, to play against the world champions. That’s what every football and sports fan in this country wants to see.”

Canada has faced Argentina only once before, losing 5-0 in May 2010 in front of 66,000 spectators in Buenos Aires.

No. 54 Costa Rica faced No. 78 Honduras in the second play-off match Saturday at Toyota Stadium.

Saturday’s match was a must-win for Canada, desperate for good news on the field amid financial questions and uncertainty within Canada Soccer. The Copa America offers a chance for elite opposition as Canadians look ahead to the 2026 World Cup.

The 13th-ranked United States and 15th-ranked Mexico, Canada’s co-hosts at the 2026 soccer competition, won their CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinals to qualify directly for the Copa America , just like Panama.

Mexico and the United States meet Sunday in the CONCACAF Nations League final in Arlington, Texas.

Canada entered Saturday’s game with a 7-2-2 record against Trinidad.

The teams were forced into a high-stakes play-off match after losing the Nations League quarter-finals in November – with Canada beaten by Jamaica (57th) and Trinidad by the United States respectively.

The Canadians blew a 3-1 lead against the Reggae Boyz and lost on the away goals rule and the series ended with a score of 4-4. The Soca Warriors lost 4-2 despite winning the second leg 2-1 in Port-of-Spain.

It was 18C in the sun for the mid-afternoon kick-off at a largely empty Toyota Stadium.

Crépeau earned his 15th cap in his first start for Canada since a World Cup qualifier in Panama in March 2022. Crépeau, now with the Portland Timbers, missed the World Cup in Qatar after broke his leg during the 2022 MLS Cup Final while playing for Los Angeles. FC.

There were some physical moments, prompting Mexican referee Marco Ortiz to show four yellow cards in the first half.

As Canada Soccer continues to search for a permanent replacement for John Herdman as coach, Biello is eyeing the 2026 World Cup by calling up 10 players with fewer than 10 caps in what he called a “cultural reset.”

Defender Joel Waterman, who won his third cap, and forward Ike Ugbo, who won his ninth cap, were the only members of the club in single figures to be part of a starting 11 that started the match with 34 cumulative selections.

FC Porto midfielder Stephen Eustaquio captained Canada wearing their new Nike kit.

Shaffelburg, Mathieu Choinière, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Samuel Piette and Luc de Fougerolles came off the bench for Canada in the second half. It was the Canadian debut for de Fougerolles, an 18-year-old Fulham defender.

Halifax Wanderers captain Andre Rampersad started for Trinidad, winning his 12th cap. He was replaced in the 56th minute by new Pacific FC striker Reon Moore.

Canada has never participated in the Copa America before. She was scheduled to participate in the 2001 tournament as a reward for winning the Gold Cup in February 2000. But CONMEBOL, the South American federation, announced on the eve of the competition that it would be postponed until 2002 in due to security concerns in the host country, Colombia. .

Five days later, he decided to go ahead with the event as planned. Canada, which had sent its players back to their clubs, was replaced by Costa Rica.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2024.

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