Julian Brennan ’24
The Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team defeated Costa Rica 1-0 on November 12, 2021, coming one step closer to qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. With 48,800 fans in attendance, an exuberance filled Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.
I was privileged to drive to Edmonton to attend the match, as well as visit some family. The stadium was filled with the cool northern Alberta breeze and Canadians from all corners of the country. It was truly an astonishing game.
During the warmups, the Canadians were purposeful but lighthearted. They appeared grateful to be performing for their home crowd. In comparison, the Costa Ricans were of a different mindset. With a couple of elaborate passing drills, they got down to business, expressing little enthusiasm. Having taken no shots during their warmup, it was almost as if Costa Rica was playing for a 0-0 draw.
Kamal Miller and Steven Vitoria formed a solid foundation for the Canadian’s defence, with Sam Adekugbe and Richie Laryea on either side. Midfielders Mark-Anthony Kaye and Stephen Eustáquio provided defensive depth. On the wings were Tajon Buchanan and Liam Millar. Starting in the attack was Canada’s star player Alphonso Davies, as well as striker Jonathan David. Costa Rica, on the other hand, was without their star goalkeeper Keylor Navas. They set up and played like a remarkably average team.
At kick-off, Canada quickly stole the ball, and maintained possession by primarily passing it amongst their backline, getting a feel for Costa Rica’s press. Unsurprisingly, Costa Rica “parked the bus,” playing quite defensively. Often throughout the game, Canada formed a three-man backline. Either Kaye, Eustáquio, or Laryea would slide in as a third centre back, allowing for Adekugbe to push up the left side, giving Canada success throughout.
It did not take long for this game to get heated. In the 13th minute, a sequence of questionable fouls occurred, including Kamal Miller’s uncalled handball robbing the Costa Ricans of a breakaway. In the following minutes, a crossbar and a chance for Davies indicated that Canada was on the verge of scoring.
In the second half, Canada looked more promising in the final third. Their set pieces and other opportunities were excruciatingly close, including a stunning bicycle kick from Buchanan. After several scrambles in Costa Rica’s box, Jonathan David scored after a poor challenge from the Costa Rican keeper.
Despite continuing to generate chances, Canada shifted their focus defensively as it looked to close the game. In the second minute of added time, Kamal Miller was injured, provoking a series of pitch invasions. It became embarrassing. One idiot who invaded the pitch ran across the field shirtless, before being brutally tackled by security. The crowd let out a collective “oof” as he collided into the advertisement board, flopping like a fish. Despite several chances for Costa Rica, Canada successfully fended them off.
Overall, Canada played underwhelmingly. They rarely progressed the play through the middle, and instead found some success on the flanks. However, a win is a win. I had a wonderful experience in a great atmosphere, watching the world-class team that Canada has become.
Photo Credit: CNN