The Canadian men’s national team won its final FIFA World Cup entry against Japan on Thursday without standouts Alphonso Davies and Stephen Eustaquio.
A Lucas Cavallini penalty in added time that barely crossed the line gave Canada an upset 2-1 victory at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Canadian head coach John Herdman was hopeful that both Eustaquio and Davies would be ready for Canada’s World Cup opener against Belgium in Qatar on Wednesday.
Davies has missed the last two games for Bayern Munich after suffering a hamstring strain. Herdman reported that Davies would travel from Munich on Friday to join the Canadian side.
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“There is only one Alphonso Davies, and we are very keen to get him back,” said Herdman.
“(Davies) is on his way to join us, and we will assess him once he arrives to see if we can get him up to speed. Gradually we will see how it goes.”
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Eustaquio was held out of the Canada-Japan friendly after suffering a concussion during practice on Wednesday.
“(Eustaquio) is a key player, and we have to make sure his health is the main priority,” Herdman said.
The win against Japan pushed Canada’s record to 3-2-3 since its successful World Cup CONCACAF qualifying run ended last March.
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Richie Layrea was brought down in the box by Miki Yamane in the 94th minute, setting up Cavallini for his penalty.
Japanese goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda got his arm on Cavallini’s drive into the middle, but the ball had just enough steam to bounce past the goal line.
“It was important for our confidence to get a result, and to win was the icing on the cake,” Herdman said.
“I had to see that this group of men could bring that identity against a team like Japan, who are technically one of the best in the world. So it was a real team performance.”
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Japan almost grabbed the lead in the 89th minute when Yamane got in behind Canada’s back line and fired a shot off the near right post.
Japan caught Herdman’s side off guard with an early goal. Yuki Soma positioned himself inside Canadian defender Kamal Miller to redirect Gaku Shibabaski’s point-mid-long ball into the box.
In the ninth minute, Soma right-footed the ball past Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borgan.
Canada tied the game in the 21st minute with a corner kick. Junior Hoilett found Atiba Hutchinson, whose touch found 35-year-old Steven Vitoria near the far post.
Hoilett was busy with six corner kicks in the first half.
Canada had 55 percent of possession.
Canada showed a lot of pressure in an intense first half with a 4-4-2 formation. However, the last 45 minutes were very competitive from both sides.
Jonathan David had Canada’s best second-half opportunity in the 74th minute before the decisive goal, but his shot from just outside the box missed by six feet to the left.
Japan enters the World Cup ranked 24th, compared to Canada at 41. Canada was ranked 78th at the time of the 2018 World Cup.
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Canadian defenseman Alistair Johnston played in a national team record 28th consecutive game to pass Bruce Wilson’s old mark. Wilson, a Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame member, captained Canada in its last World Cup appearance in 1986.
After the first match against the Belgian team, Canada will conclude the group stage with matches against Croatia on November 27 and Morocco on December 1.
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