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Canada earn another point on road in World Cup qualifying

Canada return home to host Panama on Wednesday at BMO field in its third and final qualifier during this current FIFA international window

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It was not pretty, but every point matters in FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifying and Canada will take the one earned in Jamaica on Sunday.

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The two teams played to a 0-0 tie in an empty Independence Park stadium in Kingston, Jamaica, each earning a point in the eight-team Concacaf World Cup qualifying standings.

“It was what we expected, we knew the Jamaican team had been taking a bit of heat on their performances, so we knew they were going to come out firing,” said Canada coach John Herdman. “I thought we controlled that well. The first 45 minutes, I thought Canada were in control, but we never really threatened them at the levels that we can.

“Then in the second half, I thought we had some good control, but they’re always going to catch you in set pieces and counter attacks and we had to be pretty resilliant in some moments. I think the main thing is that we would have loved to get three points (for win) here, but we’ve taken two from Jamaica, added one and stayed undefeated, which is not easy to do on the road.”

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Canada return home to host Panama on Wednesday at BMO field in its third and final qualifier during this current FIFA international window.

A capacity crowd of over 25,000 is expected as attendance restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been removed by the Ontario provincial government. A win would lift Canada into third place after six games, currently sitting fourth with the tie against Jamaica.

The top three teams after the home-and-away round robin advance to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The fourth place finisher moves on to an intercontinental playoff against a country from another region for extra berth into the 32-team World Cup tournament.

“I’m happy with how the boys came through (Sunday), given how many players we were missing,” Herdman said. “But at the same time; just the commitment of that group to get out there in some tough conditions and give everything, which is what they’ve done.”

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Canada had opportunities to win the game, but also came close to conceding the decisive goal on a number occasions.

Jamaica came closest to breaking the deadlock when midfielder Junior Flemmings flicked a header off the far post on a free kick swung into the penalty area by Kemar Lawrence of Toronto FC.

Canada’s best chance came in the 60th minute, when midfielder Liam Millar was unable to bury a sitter on a ball rolled to him across the heart of the Jamaican penalty area by Alphonso Davies. Miller had the entire net to aim for but hit his shot directly at goalkeeper Andre Blake, who made the save in self defence.

Canada started strong with Derek Cornelius and Doneil Henry at the heart of the defence with Alistair Johnston and Sam Adekugbe at right and left fullback respectively. Herdman went with five midfielders, playing Davies out on the left and Jonathan Osorio on the right with Samuel Piette, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Liam Millar in the middle and Jonathan David up front.

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Davies had the first good chance of the match in the 15th minute, when he took a pass just inside the penalty area, but pulled his left-footed attempt just wide. A few moments later Henry was unable to catch a volley cleanly from eight yard out and scuffed his shot over the net.

Jamaica’s first quality opportunity came in the 23rd minute when Kemar Roofe had a free header in the box off a free kick, but was unable to hit the target.

Canada did well to dictate play on a choppy field, but lacked quality in the final touch.

Canada has yet to lose through five games of the qualifiers with four ties and a win. Three of the ties have come on the road in the United States, Mexico and now Jamaica.

“I thought we had control at times on a tricky pitch,” Herdman said. “The boys showed that spirit to want to play and play their style and their identity and came away with a good point. I think this is a good point. We’ll rue missing two (points). But I think coming out of this, Mexico is a tough place to get a point, Jamaica is a tough place to get a point and we’re on our way back home for three home matches.

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“This is what we’re waiting for, to come back home and have our fans lift us up and push us through these next three games and finally start making it difficult for opponents as well.”

In the second half, Canada came out with more urgency and nearly scored within a minute of the restart when David stepped into a left-footed shot but hit it right at Blake. Davies then rolled a free kick just wide from the top of the penalty area minutes later.

Just over 10 minutes into the half, came Flemmings’ opportunity off the post and five minutes later, Millar squandered a chance, which he’ll probably have nightmares over.

With just over 15 minutes to go, substitute Stephen Eustaquio got to the end of cross from Sam Adekugbe and headed it just wide.

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“For us, there was good control of the game, we just couldn’t find that half a yard that you need to get the shot off,” Herdman said. “At times, it was just trying to settle the ball for the cross that would bobble up or being able to have that extra touch that Phonzie needs on the dribble to be able to beat his man. It was difficult, but at the same time, they put a shift in and we came out with a point and we’ll take it.”

In other results Sunday, Panama defeated the United States 1-0 at home, Costa Rica beat El Salvador 2-1 at home and Mexico defeated Honduras 3-0 at home.

Mexico currently leads the standings with 11 points, while the United States, and Panama are second with eight and Canada sit fourth with seven. Costa Rica (6), El Salvador (5), Honduras (3) and Jamaica (2) round out the rest of the group.

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

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