Canada's World Cup dream is over
3-1 win over El Salvador not enough to advance to next round
Canada's last-dash hopes of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia have ended.
Cyle Larin, Nikolas Ledgerwood and David Edgar all scored for the Canadian men's soccer team on Tuesday night in a 3-1 victory over visiting El Salvador. But a 0-0 draw between Honduras and Mexico — also played Tuesday — meant Canada finished third in Group A of CONCACAF qualifying.
The Canadians entered their match with El Salvador needing the win, but it also needed to overcome a five-goal differential and for Honduras to lose outright to Mexico. Honduras earned a point in its draw.
Mexico finished atop the group standings, with Honduras in second place and El Salvador in fourth. Both of those nations advance to the next round of qualifying process known as "the Hex," while the Canadian side will have to turn its attention toward World Cup aspirations in 2022.
"We just wanted to come into this game with the right mentality and go for a win and hope to get as many goals as we could," said Canadian midfielder Atiba Hutchinson.
'There's quality there': de Guzman
"Three-one was an OK result but in the end, it wasn't enough because the other result didn't go the way we were hoping. But all you can really ask for is that the boys go out there and give their best performance and that's what we did."
Hutchinson said he believed this team was capable of advancing to the next round. But Canada lost three of its last four games in the fourth round of qualifying, including a pair of defeats to powerhouse Mexico in March. Canada's only appearance at the World Cup was in 1986.
"I still believe a lot of these guys who will be around for another cycle, maybe two cycles, there's quality there," added 35-year-old midfielder Julian de Guzman, who didn't play due to injury.
"Just seeing what we saw today, playing at home and with that confidence going forward, and attacking, that's something I think Canada has a lot of and more to come in the future."
Hutchinson admitted that perhaps the biggest regret for the Canadian side will be a scoreless away draw against El Salvador in November.
"That game really slipped away from us," he said. "I think when we look back, that's one game you wish went another way. And you also want to get maximize points at home but against a team like Mexico, that's never easy."
Larin opened the scoring in the 11th minute, as he converted a shot from inside the 18-yard box to give Canada the early lead.
The Canadians continued to press for more scoring with Larin and Tosaint Ricketts creating the bulk of the chances for Canada in the opening half, but both were unable to convert.
Canada increased its lead to 2-0 in the 53rd minute when Ledgerwood converted on an opportunity. The momentum seemed to continue in their favour, as El Salvador's Darwin Ceren was handed his second yellow card and ejected from the match just three minutes later, putting the visitors down to 10 players.
But Canada's chances of a miraculous entry into the next round faded when Nelson Bonilla Sanchez scored for El Salvador on a counter attack, cutting into Canada's lead in the 78th minute.
Edgar converted for the Canadians in second half stoppage time to restore a two-goal advantage.
Head coach Benito Floro faced criticism from fans on social media, especially for his substitutions late in the game as Canada looked to add to its goal total.
He refused to discuss his future moving forward with the Canadian men's program during his post-match press conference.
"This is not the moment to talk about that because we are finishing this," said Floro.
El Salvador's players claimed prior to the match that they had been offered financial incentives for three different results — a win, draw or 1-0 loss to Canada. The players also claimed that they had refused the offer.
El Salvador's head coach Ramon Maradiaga Chavez said through an interpreter during his post-match press conference on Tuesday that CONCACAF and FIFA officials were made aware of the situation prior to the players going public with these allegations.
"All I can say about my players is they made it clear there would be nothing towards this match and we would go out and play the game the way it should be," said Chavez.
Chavez said he doesn't fear for his player's safety in this situation.
"There has to be situations and circumstances and control over who can make contact with the players during certain elements. As far as we're concerned, it's with the committee, it's with FIFA and we'll leave it at that," he said.