Davies shines as Canada crushes Panama in World Cup qualifying

Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images Sport / Getty

TORONTO - The Canadian men's national team is one step closer to its first World Cup appearance since 1986 following Wednesday's 4-1 thrashing of Panama at BMO Field.

A Panama own goal and second-half tallies from Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan, and Jonathan David canceled out the visitors' early opener in a lively affair dominated by Canada.

Canada coach John Herdman made six changes from the team that drew 0-0 with Jamaica on Sunday. Steven Vitoria, Richie Laryea, and Buchanan returned from one-match bans for yellow card accumulation, while Stephen Eustaquio, Kamal Miller, and David Wotherspoon were all inserted into the starting XI.

Panama snatched an early advantage against the run of play in the fifth minute when an unmarked Rolando Blackburn redirected Michael Murillo's incisive cutback beyond a lunging Maxime Crepeau. The goal was Blackburn's third of the final round of CONCACAF qualifiers, good for joint-top in the competition alongside United States wunderkind Ricardo Pepi.

Canada leveled the scoreline in the 28th minute following a dominant passage of play for Herdman's charges. Davies nearly beat Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia directly off a corner kick, then Murillo redirected the Bayern Munich star's cross into his own net on the resulting corner.

The sides engaged in a bench-clearing tussle at the stroke of halftime in the leadup to a Panama corner, an incident emblematic of an affair that was quintessentially CONCACAF.

Canada was by far the better side in the opening half and continued that momentum after the break. The partisan crowd erupted in the 66th minute when Davies outpaced Panama's Harold Cummings to keep the ball in play before dashing into the penalty area and firing a low effort beyond Mejia. It was a fitting goal for the best player in the match.

Buchanan notched his own deserved tally five minutes later when the Club Brugge-bound winger headed Laryea's pinpoint cross into the far corner. David made it 4-1 in the 78th minute to cement a result that was hardly in doubt.

"We just knew we had to win our games at home. What you've seen tonight is Canada stepped forward; we've put ourselves again back in the top three," Herdman said after the match.

Unbeaten Canada now sits provisionally third in the standings on 10 points on the heels of successive draws in Mexico and Jamaica. The top three teams in the eight-nation group will automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-place finisher will compete in the intercontinental playoffs. CONCACAF qualifiers conclude in March.

The Canadians next face visiting Costa Rica on Nov. 12 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Davies shines as Canada crushes Panama in World Cup qualifying
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