HIGHLIGHTS: CanMNT vs. Curacao in Concacaf Nations League (June 9, 2022)
Concacaf Nations League A
Final Score: Canada 4-0 Curaçao
Goalscorers: Davies 27′ (pen.), 71′, Vitoria 42′, Cavallini 85′
Match in a minute or less
In their first match since finishing top of the table in the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying, the Canadian men’s national team began their preparations for the 2022 Qatar World Cup on a high note with a 4-0 victory over Curaçao at BC Place in Vancouver.
On his return to the stadium where he first made a name for himself, Alphonso Davies had a brace, Steven Vitoria scored his first home goal for Canada and Vancouver Whitecaps striker Lucas Cavallini added another late.
Despite having played just a single match, Canada goes top of Group C in the Concacaf Nations League with the win on goal difference.
Davies shines in his return to Vancouver
Alphonso Davies hadn’t played in a match at BC Place since October 28, 2018, his last match for the Vancouver Whitecaps. He hadn’t played for Canada since November as he recovered from myocarditis. To make tonight’s match even more meaningful, it came against Curaçao, the country which Davies faced in his first-ever senior national team match as a 16-year-old back in June of 2017.
In his return for country, in the stadium where he used to appear for club, Davies dominated. It was clear the now Bayern Munich man was up for it tonight from the start, as he nearly scored less than a minute into the match. The rest of his teammates seemed to feed off that energy during a dominant first half.
When Davies won a somewhat dubious penalty in the 27th minute, there was no doubt who was going to step up to the spot. Davies grabbed the ball, called off his teammates, and calmly struck the ball across his body and into the left corner of the net.
Davies and Tajon Buchanan swapped flanks throughout the half, and had plenty of joy down the wings as Curaçao seemed to prioritize defending the middle of the park.
Just as he did in his last match at BC Place, a 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers, Davies bagged a brace off of a brilliant one-two with Richie Laryea before tapping the ball home. It was his 12th goal for the Canadian men’s national team and third multi-goal match.
“It felt good coming back to BC Place after so many years and playing for my national team, I was excited, said Davies in the post-match press conference. “I’m happy to score two goals and help the team.”
Davies even stuck around long after the final whistle to sign shirts and greet fans, continuing to show his incredible commitment to growing the program both on and off the field.
Canada excellent in defensive transition
The Canadian men’s national team allowed just seven goals, the fewest in the region, during 14 matches in the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying. Tonight was another example of why.
Against a side like Curaçao, which Canada was always favoured to beat, especially when possessing most of the ball, it can be easy to switch off defensively and overcommit to attacking. Especially in the first half, Canada was very switched on to proactively preventing any dangerous Curaçao attacks.
“That was a dominant performance from our lads,” said coach John Herdman post-match. “I’m really proud, given everything that’s gone on the last few days to come out with that sort of intent, yeah really impressed.”
With Davies and Buchanan pushing up the field out wide, the visitors often tried to play into the space behind those players. Both Alistair Johnston and Sam Adekugbe were excellent at covering those areas, and forcing Curaçao backwards when they tried to get forward down the flanks.
When Curaçao tried to play quickly through the middle of the park, Stephen Eustáquio in particular was excellent in positioning himself in areas that slowed the attack, allowing more Canadian players to get back into position.
When they tried to go over the top, Vitoria and Kamal Miller were dominant aerially. In a completely defensive performance, there was also a very good commitment from the team’s offensive players to get back into their defensive shape.
Canada did have one defensive breakdown in the 56th minute, requiring a huge block from Alistair Johnston after Milan Borjan was rounded by a Curaçao attacker. But the visitors did not officially register a shot on target during the match and had just five attempts.
It is worth mentioning that Curaçao has already played a pair of matches this window, and perhaps were playing on slightly heavy legs. But they also looked disjointed and out of ideas because Canada offered them very little opportunity to build anything offensively.
Canada is slightly wasteful in attack and will need to be more clinical against better opposition
This is nitpicking, there is no doubt about it. But standards around this team, both internally and externally have changed a lot in the past year.
Canada’s buildup play throughout tonight’s match was excellent. It was inventive, direct, relentless and demonstrated the newfound confidence with which this team plays. They scored four goals against a team who played in a reasonably low block throughout the match.
But other than Davies, just about every other Canada attacker will have a chance they would want back on the night. Canada had 22 shot attempts, nine of which were on target. There were countless times throughout the match that Canadian attackers broke into the box only to choose the wrong final pass or action.
Against better opponents, and certainly, in Qatar, these chances will be far fewer and far between and Canada will need to be far more clinical when they are created.
This group hasn’t played together since March, many of its key players are out of season and this certainly isn’t a cause for any sort of alarm just yet. But in building toward the World Cup this Canadian team will want to be constantly raising its level, and it can do that by being more clinical against Honduras on Monday in what should be a tougher match.
“It is getting better, but we’ve got a long way to go, we’ve got a hell of a long way to go,” said Herdman. “This game against Honduras will be a test, an away match, and they are on five days of recovery and we’ve got to keep moving forward.”