Cyle Larin struck twice to lift Canada to a chilling 2-1 win over Mexico in frigid Edmonton on Tuesday, enabling the host nation to climb to the top of the CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying standings.
Through eight matches Canada remains the only unbeaten team, sitting in first place on 16 points followed by the United States with 15 after a 1-1 draw with Jamaica.
It is an unfamiliar spot for the Cinderella Canadians who have only once before qualified for a World Cup, in 1986.
“It’s about what is going on in this country and the direction the program is going in,” said midfielder Atiba Hutchinson after making his record 90th appearance for Canada. “We go into games now with a lot of confidence and that is what I have always wanted for this team, this country.”
The loss capped a miserable swing through North America for Mexico, who suffered a 2-0 loss to the United States on Friday and now find themselves on 14 points, level with Panama and in a fight for an automatic qualifying spot.
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The top three in the eight-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-placed finisher going into an intercontinental playoff for another spot.
Mexico was welcomed to the Great White North by 50,000 mostly Canadian supporters bundled into the icy Commonwealth Stadium for what was one of the coldest matches ever played in the CONCACAF region. Temperatures were hovering around minus-8 Celsius (18 Fahrenheit).
Canada rewarded their fans with a first-half stoppage time goal, Larin coolly slotting home a loose ball when keeper Guillermo Ochoa was unable to control a long-range attempt from Alistair Johnston.
Larin would find the back of the net again in the 52nd minute getting his right foot on a superb Stephen Eustaquio free-kick, the team celebrating by diving into snowbanks rimming the field.
Hector Herrera’s 90th-minute header set up a nail-biting end to the contest. Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan denied Mexico an equalizer when he swept a ball off the goal-line in injury time.
In Kingston, the United States struck first in the 11th minute through Tim Weah before Michail Antonio levelled for Jamaica 11 minutes later from long range, his rocket dipping under the crossbar out the reach of keeper Zack Steffen.
In Panama City, Panama got second-half strikes from Cecilio Waterman and Freddy Gondola two minutes apart to claim a 2-1 win over El Salvador, who had stunned the home crowd when Jairo Henriquez scored in the opening minute.
In San Jose, Gerson Torres scored in stoppage time to lift Costa Rica to a 2-1 win over Honduras.