Canada qualifies for World Cup, ending 36-year wait for men's program

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Canada, the world is watching.

Canada qualified for the 2022 World Cup following Sunday's 4-0 win over Jamaica. When the men's team begins its tournament in Qatar this November, it will end a wait of over 36 years to grace soccer's biggest stage once again.

The Canadians' dominance should've produced an even greater return than the strikes from Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan, and Junior Hoilett, and Adrian Mariappa's own goal in Toronto, but their comfortable position allowed the celebrations to start early. Coaching staff and players embraced on the touchline as the lively home supporters serenaded their heroes during the second half.

"I'm speechless. It's a dream come true," midfielder Jonathan Osorio said after the match, summing up the emotions of many longtime fans. "We all dreamed of this as little kids. And as a Canadian, that was impossible. Today the impossible happened. It's an incredible feeling."

Since Canada's Mexico '86 campaign - which yielded zero points and no goals from three group-stage games - the nation's bids to reach a second World Cup have been littered by excruciating defeats (such as 1994's penalty shootout loss to Australia), false dawns (the 2000 Gold Cup winners never reached the final round of qualifying), and monumental implosions (none more scarring than the 8-1 humiliation in Honduras in 2012).

But this time is different.

Canada currently sits atop the Octagonal for the third round of CONCACAF qualifying with a plump six-point cushion over fourth, the place that sends a team into an oft-nervy intercontinental World Cup playoff against an Oceanic nation. Canada's rather straightforward progression has featured clinical finishing from Jonathan David and Larin, grittiness from players like veteran goalkeeper Milan Borjan and defender Alistair Johnson, and adventurous attacking movement spearheaded by Alphonso Davies, Buchanan, and others.

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"If we qualify, we will genuinely connect the country in a way it has not been connected before. It will bring the country together," Canada head coach John Herdman said in January.

Though the trailblazers who booked a spot at Mexico '86 are due respect, that group largely consisted of indoor soccer players, men spicing up their working lives with semi-pro games, and others entrenched in the local amateur circuit. The hero of that team was George Pakos, a water meter reader who plundered goals in leagues around his hometown of Victoria, British Columbia.

By comparison, Herdman's squad boasts footballers with winners' medals in Europe's biggest club competitions. It's a generation that truly belongs at international football's top table, and that's been proven after outdoing the United States, Mexico, and every other CONCACAF nation in World Cup qualifying.

So now, the countdown begins. Canada takes on the best teams the rest of the globe has to offer later this year.

Canada qualifies for World Cup, ending 36-year wait for men's program
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