How would Canada do without Alphonso Davies? Perfectly fine, as it turned out.
Deprived of the services of one of the brightest attacking stars in world soccer, the Canadian men’s team faced serious questions about how they would handle their tricky CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Honduras Thursday night in San Pedro Sula. Davies is reportedly unavailable, sidelined with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, after testing positive for COVID-19 while on duty for his German club Bayern Munich.
On top of that, history has not been kind to the Canadians in the Central American country, their only victory in 11 previous games on Honduran soil dating back to 1985. Ten years ago, Canada suffered a humiliating 8-1 loss to Honduras, a result that knocked them out of World Cup qualifying in embarrassing fashion. The bitter taste of that humiliation still lingered, and now they had to return to the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano without Davies.
But the demons were successfully exorcised, and Davies’ absence proved to be a complete non-factor, as Canada cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory to stay top of the CONCACAF standings and move closer. a bit more of qualification for FIFA 2022. World Cup in Qatar.
Canada coach John Herdman announced the professional nature of his team’s performance on a night when he felt they would have to fight for everything they won.
“Getting 2-0 on the road was important for the team, to get our first win on the road as well. More than anything it was about three points – that’s all that matters… We we bent a little bit, but we didn’t break up. I think that’s the story of this team,” Herdman said.
Davies isn’t the only one producing magical moments
Davies so often provides the Canadiens with moments of pure genius, energizing the team with his blistering pace and dynamic offensive play. But he’s not the only player on this team capable of conjuring up moments of pure magic, as Honduras discovered at their peril.
The hosts got off to a good start on Thursday, putting Canada under immediate pressure. But it was the visitors who opened the scoring when Tajon Buchanan made a deep solo run down the right, mis-footed his marker with a tantalizing series of forward steps, and then kicked a dangerous through ball from the line. bottom in the box of six meters. that Honduran defender Denil Maldonado mistakenly headed into the back of his net.
A bit of luck, sure. But make no mistake, Buchanan’s bravery and skill created Canada’s first goal.
Broadcasting his reactions to the match live on Twitch, Davies shouted “Golazo! Come on! Tajon, give it to him!” after brilliant play from Buchanan forced the own goal.
Desperate for a goal, Honduras began to turn the screws on Canada as the second half wore on. But goalkeeper Milan Borjan made a fabulous diving save over Kervin Arriaga’s header in the 70th minute to deny the Honduran midfielder the equalizer.
Moments later, almost at the right time, Jonathan David sealed the victory for Canada with a scoring shot.
Substitute Liam Fraser played a 40-yard laser pass from deep within his own half to David, who deftly controlled the ball with his chest, headed it forward and then chipped away Honduran goalkeeper Luis masterfully Lopez at 24 yards. After three exquisite touches of the ball at full speed, the ball was in the back of the net. Game over.
“Johnny…Come on man,” Davies shouted on his live stream.
WATCH | Alphonso Davies’ incredible reaction to Canada’s goals:
Herdman was equally impressed: “Watching (David) go through that transition, and the goal he scored, I mean, it was special.”
Beyond goals, the Canadians benefited from the stellar form of veteran midfielder Atiba Hutchinson, their 38-year-old captain who played in that 8-1 debacle nearly 10 years ago.
Much of Herdman’s tactics are built around Stephen Eustáquio, a sublime two-way player who rocks the midfield. But he was unavailable on Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19. Hutchinson, Canada’s all-time caps leader, made up for Eustáquio’s absence and was center stage while effortlessly serving as his team’s chief organizer in the center of the park.
One man falls, another seamlessly fills the void – that was the story of the game for Canada.
“The biggest thing I saw tonight was this next-man strategy,” Herdman said.
WATCH | Jonathan David scores a sublime goal:
After the final whistle, Borjan, as has become the custom with this Canadian team, gathered his teammates and the entire coaching staff on the field for a post-game huddle.
“What a fucking game! That’s how you leave your heart for this shirt… We’re a team, we’re brothers, we’re a nation. We’re united, like brothers, like one big family,” he said. exclaims Borjan passionately.
That sibling mentality should serve Canada well as they host the United States on Sunday in Hamilton, Ont. (3 p.m. ET), then travel to El Salvador next Wednesday (9 p.m. ET) to close that hugely important international window. That’s the last thing Herdman would admit to believing, but you have to think that if Canada can pick up points in their next two games, they’ll be tied to Qatar.
“It’s a special story unfolding here. It feels like every (player) can contribute to the journey,” Herdman said.