On a large stage in front of a large crowd, the distinguished man from Canada delivered. And how.
Alphonso Davies scored a remarkable goal to open the floodgates midway through the second half on Wednesday as Canada claimed a 4-1 win over Panama in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying games.
The goal embodied the Bayern Munich star, 20, showcasing his speed, acceleration and flair. Few people on the planet could have marked it.
It caught Drake’s attention. Canada’s coach John Herdman said the global hip-hop star texted Davies after the game saying he wanted to reunite.
The 51st ranked Canadian men had No.68 Panama under the cosh but only took the lead in the 66th minute when a sprinting Davies came out of nowhere on the right flank to steal the ball from under the feet of the defender Harold Cummings, who thought the ball was about to come out.
Davies reached for the ball before he did, acrobatically using his back foot to keep the ball in play and push it in front of him, then danced around defender Fidel Escobar and – using Jonathan David as a decoy – took a shot bottom that left goalkeeper Luis Mejia rooted in place for a 2-1 lead. It was Davies’ 10th goal in his 28th game for Canada.
The Canadians, still unbeaten at 2-0-4, turned to offense after the goal.
WATCH | Davies’ unassisted gem inspires Canada after Panama:
Alphonso Davies’ spectacular goal leads Canada to Panama in CONCACAF World Cup qualification
Forward Alphonso Davies scores with incredible individual effort as Canada defeats Panama 4-1 in their CONCACAF World Cup qualifier. 1:47
“Phonzie is a big infuencer in this band. He’s a humble guy but when he talks it reminds us [Christine] Sinclair. When he talks, people are listening, ”said Herdman, who coached Sinclair and Canadian Women before taking over the men’s program.
Tajon Buchanan made it 3-1 in the 71st, headed a cross from Richie Laryea for his third goal for Canada. David then scored in the 78th minute, returning the ball home on a counterattack on a Davies pass with the Panamanian defense in disarray. It was the Lille striker’s 17th goal in 22 internationals.
Davies left in the 81st minute to a standing ovation. A Panamanian goal in the 85th was called off for offside.
BMO Field was at full capacity, with an announced attendance of 26,622 after local authorities relaxed restrictions related to the pandemic. The south gallery was a sea of red, filled with waving flags.
They were able to witness a full-fledged game being played at a breakneck pace. A creeping Canada dictated most of the tempo with Davies playing up front with David leading the attack. Davies was electric and tormented the defenders.
As Panama (2-2-2) held on for much of the game, the visitors opened the scoring.
After falling behind on a Rolando Blackburn goal in the fifth minute, Canada regrouped and attacked with flying colors. The veteran Panama team showed poise and determination to withstand the assault, but the Canadians kept coming and equalized in the 28th minute on a home side goal of Michael Murillo.
Benches cleared before half-time
The benches emptied near the stroke of half-time after a scrum as Panama was slow to take a corner. The Canadian replacements were warming up in the vicinity and took offense at Panama’s tactics, leading to a scrimmage that eventually dissipated after some shoving and shouting.
WATCH | The spirits heat up as the benches clear before the half-time of qualifying:
Benches clear in CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers between Canada and Panama
Things heat up late in the first half of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying game between Canada and Panama. 1:56
There was more animosity after the final whistle, with the players to be separated. Laryea, whose blood is no stranger to the boil, was angry with something.
“It’s life or death for us,” Herdman said. “We will fight. We will fight to the end for this country. Our goal is bigger and stronger than any other CONCACAF team. We haven’t been at a World Cup since 1986. These teams have it. So when you ‘try to take that away from us, we get in – everybody.
“It is not pleasant to see and I do not endorse what is happening,” he added. “But at the same time, our country needs us to fight. We cannot back down at any time now.”
The Canadiens have now taken seven of nine possible points at home. And they got the job done on the road, picking up points through draws in the United States, Mexico and Jamaica.
Herdman got what he wanted – a dominant performance at home.
“It was a performance as good or as strong as the one I have experienced or been in,” he said.
Canada’s next two games will also be at home, against Costa Rica on November 12 and Mexico on November 16, both at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
Wednesday’s game was the third in an international window that saw the Canadians draw 1-1 in Mexico and 0-0 in Jamaica.
Canada was without injured Atiba Hutchinson, forwards Cyle Larin, Lucas Cavallini and Junior Hoilett. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan is recovering from COVID-19.
In Wednesday’s remaining matches, the 13th-ranked United States (3-1-2) rallied to a 2-1 victory over No.44 Costa Rica (1-2-3) in Columbus, Ohio, and Jamaica No. 59 (1-). 3-2) won 2-0 at No. 63 Honduras (0-3-3). Mexico No. 9 (4-0-2) won 2-0 against El Salvador No. 65 (1-3-2) late in the game.
This victory allowed Canada to overtake Panama in third place with 10 points in the standings. Mexico leads with 14 points, ahead of the United States with 11.
In March, the top three teams in the CONCACAF eight-team round robin will book their tickets to Qatar 2022. The fourth-placed team will take part in an intercontinental playoff to see who will join them.
WATCH | Preview of Canada’s crucial World Cup qualification against Panama:
World Cup qualifiers: what to expect from Canada vs Panama
Canada’s national men’s soccer team is preparing to host its final World Cup qualifier in October against Panama. Panama enter this game after beating the United States for the first time in their World Cup qualifying history, CBC Sports’ Signa Butler speaks with Panamanian football journalist David Sakata for a breakdown of the upcoming game by CanMNT. 5:49