Canada’s men’s soccer team is looking to the future after posting another dominant win on Sunday.
The squad beat French Guiana 4-1 in a CONCACAF Nations League qualifying match in Vancouver, cementing its place in both this summer’s Gold Cup and Group A in next fall’s Nations League action.
But the team knows that more difficult tests are yet to come.
“There is a step up coming. We know that,” coach John Herdman said.
Canada swept all four of its Nations League qualifying games but will face tougher opponents going forward.
Still, Herdman is confident that his defence will be ready and his forwards will continue to create scoring chances.
“I think there’s a cutting edge to our talent now. That attacking line, there’s a real edge to it. A real edge,” he said.
That edge was on display Sunday, with the Canadians outshooting French Guiana 18-4.
Lucas Cavallini scored twice for Canada, while Junior Hoilett and Jonathan David each added a goal and an assist.
Atiba Hutchinson and Mark-Anthony Kaye also tallied helpers for Canada (4-0-0).
Kevin Rimane put away French Guiana’s (2-2-0) lone goal.
Canadian ‘keeper Milan Borjan stopped three shots and Jean-Beaunel Petit-Homme had 14 saves for French Guiana.
Petit-Homme had a frustrating stretch near the end of the first half, first conceding a ball from a diving Cavallini in the 39th minute then getting beat by David just two minutes later.
David first headed the ball forward, then fired it into the net from up high.
“I was just thinking I had to accelerate to eliminate the defenders behind me and from then on I just had to compose myself and wait for the right moment to finish it. And that’s what I did,” said the 19-year-old Ottawa-raised striker.
He now has four goals in four appearances with the national squad.
Despite winning handily on Sunday, the teen thought his team could have done even better.
“We dominated the game, in my opinion,” David said. “Yeah, we scored four goals, but I think we could have scored more, maybe six or seven. But overall it was a good game.”
French Guiana’s goal is the first Canada has conceded since Herdman took over as the team’s head coach in January 2018.
Rimane forced the ball through Borjan’s feet, then fired it into a wide-open net.
Letting the ball through was frustrating for the 31-year-old Canadian goalie.
“Our goal was not to receive any goals today. But this happens in football,” Borjan said. “(But) we won. This is important.”
French Guiana’s coach Thierry De Neef said he thought his team’s goal could spark a result.
“Having scored in this game, there was a hope for us. But as I said, Canada was better,” he said through a translator.
Sunday’s contest showed that Canada is ready to take on tougher opponents, Borjan said.
“(The Gold Cup) is going to be hard but we’re going to work on it and when we play the bigger teams, we’re going to come out against them like we did today,” he said.
The group will be confident and ready when it comes time to take on those teams, said captain Atiba Hutchinson.
“I think more than anything we’re excited to go up and compete against some better opponents in the Gold Cup,” he said. “We have a team that’s been creating a lot of chances in every one of the games we’ve been playing in the last year. So that’s not something we’re really worried about.”
Canada was without teen soccer star Alphonso Davies on Sunday.
The game was expected to be a homecoming for the 18-year-old former Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder, but Davies injured his knee in Bayern Munich’s 6-0 rout of Mainz earlier this month, the same game where he scored his first Bundesliga goal.
While he wasn’t in the game, Davies was cheering from the crowd of 17,124.
He signed autographs and took photos with fans before kickoff and was given an award for being named the 2018 Canadian player of the year in a pre-match ceremony.
Canada will learn on Wednesday who it will face in the next round of Gold Cup action.
Qualifying for the tournament is a “massive step” that will allow the team to “play more competitive teams and get ready for the future,” David said.
“It’s a really important step because we know we have a good squad and this is a good opportunity for us to test ourselves against the best,” he added.