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Canada qualified for the Copa America with a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago

FRISCO, Texas –

Canada is on its way to the Copa America and a big clash with world champions Argentina.

But it took a while for Trinidad and Tobago to take on a well-organized team in a CONCACAF Nations League play-in game on Saturday. Second-half goals from Cyle Larin and Jacob Shaffelburg gave Canada a 2-0 win – and a trip to the South American Championship as one of six visiting CONCACAF teams.

The 96th-ranked Soca Warriors defended with determination and numbers as No. 50 Canada came on in waves.

The Canadian men had 63 percent possession in the first 45 minutes and an 11-1 edge from corners, but couldn’t capitalize on it.

Interim coach Mauro Biello said his team remained calm during the break.

“They knew we had control of the game and just had to stay on task,” Biello said.

The breakthrough finally came in the 61st minute when Tajon Buchanan struck towards the penalty area. He passed the ball to a teammate in traffic and it landed at the feet of Larin, who beat goalkeeper Denzil Smith with a low shot for his Canadian men’s record 29th goal.

For Canada, the job was done, even if it took a while to get there. And there were some tense moments as Trinidad pushed late and goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau stopped dangerous man Levi Garcia in the 85th minute.

Shaffelburg hammered a shot off the goal post with Smith beaten in the 86th minute. And in the 91st minute, he eased the pressure by firing a shot for his second goal for Canada as the Trinidad defense fell short.

Canada joins Group A at the Copa America with Argentina, No. 33 Peru and No. 42 Chile. The game between Canada and Argentina opens the tournament on June 20th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

“First of all, I’m happy for all our fans,” said Biello. “What this means for all of our fans is huge. Being able to take part in a Copa America, being able to play against the world champions. This is what all football fans, sports fans in this country want to see.”

Canada has only played Argentina once before, losing 5-0 in front of 66,000 fans in Buenos Aires in May 2010.

No. 54 Costa Rica played No. 78 Honduras in the second play-in game on Saturday at Toyota Stadium.

Saturday’s game was a must-win for Canada, which was desperate for good news on the pitch amid financial questions and uncertainty at Canada Soccer. The Copa America offers an opportunity for elite opponents as the Canadians look ahead to the 2026 World Cup.

The 13th-ranked United States and No. 15 Mexico, Canada’s co-hosts in the 2026 soccer tournament, won the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Nations League and qualified directly for the Copa America, as did Panama.

Mexico and the United States meet in the CONCACAF Nations League final on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

Canada entered Saturday’s game with a record of 7-2-2 against Trinidad.

The teams were forced into the high-stakes play-in game after losing the Nations League quarterfinals in November – Canada beaten by No. 57 Jamaica and Trinidad by the United States, respectively.

The Canadians blew a 3-1 lead against the Reggae Boyz and lost on away goals, the series ending 4-4. The Soca Warriors lost 2-4, although they won the second leg in Port-of-Spain 2-1.

It was a sunny 18°C ​​at kick-off in the afternoon in the largely empty Toyota Stadium.

Crepeau earned his 15th cap in his first start for Canada since a World Cup qualifier in Panama in March 2022. Crepeau, now with the Portland Timbers, missed the World Cup in Qatar after appearing in the 2022 MLS Cup Final for Los Angeles FC had broken his leg.

There were some physical moments that led Mexican referee Marco Ortiz to show four yellow cards in the first half.

As Canada Soccer continues to search for a permanent replacement for John Herdman as coach, Biello has called up 10 players with fewer than 10 caps ahead of the 2026 World Cup, in what he describes as a “cultural reset.”

Defender Joel Waterman, who earned his third cap, and striker Ike Ugbo, who earned his ninth cap, were the only members of the club with single-digit caps, making the starting eleven with a total of 34 caps.

FC Porto midfielder Stephen Eustaquio captained Canada, who wore their new Nike jersey.

Shaffelburg, Mathieu Choiniere, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Samuel Piette and Luc de Fougerolles came on as substitutes for Canada in the second half. It was a Canadian debut for de Fougerolles, an 18-year-old defender from Fulham.

Halifax Wanderers captain Andre Rampersad started for Trinidad, earning his twelfth international cap. He was replaced by newly signed Pacific FC striker Reon Moore in the 56th minute.

Canada has never competed in the Copa America before. Participation in the 2001 tournament was planned as a reward for winning the Gold Cup in February 2000. However, the South American association CONMEBOL announced on the eve of the competition that it would be postponed to 2002 due to security concerns in host country Colombia.

Five days later it was decided to hold the event as planned. Canada, which had sent its players back to its clubs, was replaced by Costa Rica.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2024

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