The Canadian men’s national team took the first leg of their second-round 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying tie with Haiti 1-0 at Port-au-Prince Saturday, grabbing an all-important away goal in their biggest match in over half a decade.
Les Rouges must beat Haiti over two legs to reach Concacaf’s eight-team final stage where the top three or four teams qualify for Qatar next Summer. Canada hasn’t made the last round since 1998 or qualified for the World Cup since 1986.
Canada kicked off a sticky day in the Haitian capital somewhat suspiciously. An early dangerous play by the Haitians was called back for offside and left John Herdman and co. irked.
However, just like their last all-or-nothing match against Suriname on Tuesday, the Canadians slowly grew into the match – starting with striker Cyle Larin’s 14th-minute opener which came following a beautiful sequence with a Mark-Anthony Kaye blind pass to a drifting Jonathan Osorio who fired in a cross that missed Haitian ‘keeper Johny Placide and landed on Larin’s out-stretched right foot.
Larin perked up with a lovely flick-and-turn just moments later, earning a one-on-one with Placide but failed to convert. From there Canada held a firm grip on proceedings through to the halftime interval; Alphonso Davies drew right-sided defenders every which way, the backline held firm, and the midfield muddled play well.
The second half began much more unhinged. Placide denied Jonathan David on another breakaway while, at the other end, a bicycle kick forced a lunging stop from Canadian ‘keeper Milan Borjan. Haiti generated a handful of chances through to the hour mark – chief among them a set play off a corner that saw the ball cross an open goal from Derrick Etienne.
Haiti’s roll was slowed through the final half-hour. The heat, pace of play, and numerous stoppages allowed Herdman and co. chance to regroup and make the full complement of substitutes and, eventually, escape with a big away goal with a staunch defensive perfomance.
The second leg between Canada and Haiti will be played on Tuesday (9pm ET/6pm PT on OneSoccer) at SeatGeek Stadium in Chicago, Illinois – it’s considered Canada’s “home” half of the tie.
Canada has taken a big step towards the crucial final stage of Concacaf World Cup qualifying as the winner of the two-legged tie will advance to the eight-team third and final stage, known as the “octagon.” If Canada advances, they would face off against Mexico, the United States, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Honduras, and two more second-stage winners. Top three finishers advance to the World Cup in Qatar while the fourth-placed side enters an inter-confederation play-off.
Saturday’s match was the first time Herdman and co. had faced the Haitians since the 2019 Gold Cup quarter-final where the Canadians were unexpectedly knocked out. HFX Wanderers FC defender Jems Geffrard – who started Saturday’s game – was in the lineup for that match.
Canada made two changes from the starting lineup that beat Suriname 4-0; Mark-Anthony Kaye replaced Samuel Piette in midfield while Steven Vitoria took the spot of Doneil Henry at the heart of the back three. Both Henry and Piette were substituted for the match. Herdman also started the match with the 3-5-2 formation first used against the Surinamese.