A dark, gloomy and rainy Vancouver evening. Seemed just about fitting given the past few days and the dark spot left on Canada’s meteoric rise. What was supposed to be a week of celebrations and a congratulatory send-off to Qatar turned into negative headlines heard around the soccer world. Yet, amidst the wage disputes and press conferences, there was still a game to be played.
The men’s national team was playing their first game in Vancouver since 2017. Alphonso Davies was making his return to an adoring BC Place. Canada’s best were playing in competitive games in front of their home fans once again. The passion, demand, and devotion from The Voyageurs showed that for 90 minutes, everything off the pitch can be forgotten about, and the celebration that this week was supposed to be, could finally kick off in front of over 17,000 fans.
Given that John Herdman only has two games in this international window and not three, a strong lineup was always expected for the Curacao match. Milan Borjan (clad in his iconic grey sweatpants) sat behind a back four of Sam Adekugbe, Alistair Johnston, Kamal Miller and Steven Vitoria. Controlling the middle of the park were Atiba Hutchinson and Stephen Estaquio, accompanied by Tajon Buchannan and Alphonso Davies. Finally, it would be Canada’s top two marksmen, Cyle Larin and Jonathan David, to round out the starting 11.
A rather cagey and safe opening first 30 minutes lead to nothing more than a few half-chances, with Canada struggling to find the final ball past the Curacao defence. Yet, just as the clock hit 30minutes, Alphonso Davies was able to pick the ball up from a slipping defender and advance goal wards. Some quick feet got tripped up in the box, sending Canada to the spot.
It had been nearly four games since Davies had played at BC Place. You would have to be mad to try and take the spot kick away from him. In front of what is usually the Vancouver Southsiders, who had adored the tricky winger since he was 15 stepped up. Having made his Canada debut against Curacao, it was now time to complete his homecoming journey. Calmly, he slotted the ball past the keeper, and gave Canada the advantage, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
WELCOME BACK, @AlphonsoDavies! 🗻
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) June 10, 2022
10 minutes later, a corner that wasn’t held from the keeper found Jonathon David in close range. After a soft volley back into the six-yard box, Stephen Vitoria met the ball with a cushioned header into the back of the net. A comfortable lead. A deserved lead. Canada was two goals to the good in the 41st minute.
Matching the theme of the first half, Canada was in cruise control to open up the second 45 minutes, yet didn’t have their foot off Curacao’s throat. And it would take 30 minutes until they found the scoresheet again. A dazzling run had Davies carving through the defence like a hot knife through butter. A give-and-go on the edge of the box with Richie Laryea gave Davies a gaping net.
Davies grabs his second, and number three for #CANMNT on the night thanks to this give-and-go with Laryea on the edge of the box
Canada now fully in control in Vancouver
— Last Word on Soccer (@LastWordSC) June 10, 2022
Rolling the ball into the net, Davies had his second, and Canada’s third of the evening. Shortly after, both he and Buchannan would make way for Ike Ugbo and Lucas Cavallini.
For Cavallini, he would also add his name to the scoresheet in his home stadium, after getting on the end of a low Adekugbe cross. The ball around a streaking Cavallini, barreling down on goal. “El Tanque” didn’t get much of a connection with the ball, but it was enough to make it a 4-0 scoreline.
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) June 10, 2022
Given all of the complications and negativity surrounding Thursday’s match, a strong crowd and a stronger performance was the expectation against Curacao. They did exactly that. Finishing with 55% possession, 21 shots, nine on target, and holding Curacao to zero, Canada flew up to first place in Group C of the CONCACAF Nations League.
It was more than a successful homecoming for Davies, as well as a performance five years in the making in front of the Vancouver fans.
Photo Credit: Canada Soccer on June 09, 2022.