Canada clinched a spot in the 2023 Concacaf Nations League Finals on Tuesday night with a 4-1 win over Honduras at BMO Field.
Cyle Larin scored twice inside the opening 12 minutes to put Canada in the lead and Jonathan David added a third after the restart to all but seal victory. Honduras would pull one back from Jorge Benguché in the 73rd minute, but Jonathan Osorio, playing on his home field, would put in a fourth for Canada in the 87th minute to cap off a thrilling night.
“A very good performance, a dominant one, one that we envisioned,” said Osorio post-match. “Especially at the start of the game, we wanted to be the aggressors, we wanted to show that we're very motivated about winning this group and getting to the semifinal.”
“We showed that in our play,” he continued. “And in front of our fans, with the help that they always give us. Overall, a very good performance.”
Canada were ruthless from the opening whistle. Alphonso Davies cutting in from the left, dishing to Osorio, who played a pair of one-twos with Larin to craft the opener in the 8th minute. Larin would double the lead four minutes later with a back-post header from a Stephan Eustáquio corner.
“That’s what we worked on, exploiting their weaknesses, that’s what we were emphasizing in training,” said Ayo Akinola. “And luckily we executed on that.”
David’s in the 49th continued that trend, coolly slotting home after a Tajon Buchanan ball in from the right had Honduras reeling. And Osorio’s closer was a thing of beauty: Akinola laying his TFC teammate in down the right-side of the area with a no-look pass and Osorio lifting a left-footer over the keeper.
“I seen him out of the corner of my eye, as soon as Alistair [Johnston] passed me the ball,” said Akinola. “Literally as the ball is traveling I see Oso making the run, so I just make a blindside, first-time pass.”
“If you saw the post me and Oso did yesterday on the Instagram story, you see all the pictures of him and I,” smiled the TFC forward. “Came into fruition right there.”
It was Akinola’s first Canada match at BMO Field.
“Finally, fin-al-ly,” he reflected. “Since the Gold Cup, when I had the torn ACL, there were opportunities in World Cup Qualifying that I missed out, but finally I got to represent Canada on a home stage.”
“That's basically all I wanted when I decided to switch from the US to Canada,” Akinola smiled. “Definitely a memorable night for me.”
Canada had already secured a spot in the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup this summer, but with the victory on Tuesday they seal a berth in the four team Nations League Finals – set to be played at Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada with the semifinal on June 15 and the final/third-place playoff on June 18.
With seeding based on Concacaf Nations League group results, Canada will face Panama in one semi, while the USA and Mexico meet in the other.
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Canada will go in good spirits.
“A little bit, but we're definitely humble, very level-headed,” replied Akinola, asked if the sky was the limit for this group. “Each and every game, no matter what tournament it is, we have to come with the right attitude, the right mentality and take it just game-by-game. But definitely we're leaving on a high, for sure.”
Said Osorio: “Very excited, more excited just to be playing for a trophy.”
“First, we’ve got that semifinal. It's what we're striving for now, that’s the next level for us,” he continued. “So yeah, we're all excited. We've taken care of the objective of getting there and now we look forward to that.”
Another step forward for John Herdman’s side.
“Prior to the game we talked about, if you want to be part of Concacaf’s elite, you have to be in these final moments, you've got to get into these big events,” laid out the coach. “The first in our history to get to a Nations League Final and this group believe they can win it.”
“And why not?” Herdman continued. “The step they've taken tonight is they've shown a level of performance that should give us hope and a lot of belief that we can win that Nations League Final.”
“I'm hoping a lot of Canadians book some time off in June, and what a location, what a destination, that is for seven days, two big games,” he added. “It’ll be a hell of a ride for the fans if they turn up. And I think that's the next step for Canada. When we go to these matches, we end up with 75 000 Mexicans or 70 000 Americans. We'd love to see the fans come over the border and fill at least half of that stadium.”