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Canada crumbles vs. Jamaica, fails to earn automatic Copa America spot

Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images Sport / Getty

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Canada fell apart in the second half of Tuesday night's CONCACAF Nations League clash with Jamaica, conceding three goals after the interval en route to a 3-2 loss that eliminated Mauro Biello's team from the competition.

The Canadians, carrying a 2-1 advantage into the second leg of the quarterfinal matchup after their win in Kingston, gave up three goals in 16 minutes, ultimately losing on the away-goals rule after the two-game series finished 4-4 on aggregate.

The defeat also means Canada fails to secure an automatic spot in next summer's Copa America, which is being played in the United States and will feature six CONCACAF nations. Canada still has a chance to qualify for the event but now must navigate a single-elimination playoff in March 2024 to do so.

Canada, ranked 45th in the world and undefeated in 17 home matches dating back to 2016, appeared to be in complete control on a wet, blustery evening at BMO Field in Toronto. Alphonso Davies gave his side a 1-0 lead - and healthy 3-1 aggregate edge - in the 25th minute. But the Reggae Boyz stormed back in the second stanza, silencing the home crowd with two goals in quick succession from Shamar Nicholson, each of which came after sloppy Canadian turnovers.

Ismael Kone quickly answered for Canada with a glancing header in the 69th minute, making it 2-2, but Jamaica took the lead for good in the 75th after referee Cesar Ramos awarded the visiting team a penalty for a handball inside the area by midfielder Stephen Eustaquio. The Canadians protested what they deemed a harsh decision, but the call withstood a brief review from the video assistant referees.

Bobby De Cordova-Reid calmly sent Canadian netminder Milan Borjan the wrong way from the spot, giving Jamaica a lead it wouldn't relinquish, even as Canada - playing against 10 men after Demarai Gray was sent off - poured on the pressure through nine minutes of stoppage time.

"We had everything in our hands," Borjan, shaking his head in disbelief, said after the loss. "This wasn't us (in the second half). We came too easy, thinking that everything was going to be easy.

"We have to sit down all together, look each other in the eyes and see what went wrong," the captain added. "This is unacceptable. I'm very angry, and sorry to the nation that we didn't go to the semis."

Canada still has a chance to qualify for the Copa America despite Tuesday's stunning setback but will now have to beat either Trinidad and Tobago or Costa Rica in a one-off match in March to nab one of the last two tournament berths that'll be allocated to CONCACAF for the expanded 16-team event.

Involvement in the competition would give Canada a much-needed opportunity to test itself against top-level opposition outside of its own region, particularly with high-profile friendly matches proving hard to come by thus far as Canada continues preparing to co-host the 2026 World Cup.

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