With a significantly changed squad for the Canadian Men’s National Team from what was seen in the CONCACAF Nations League, Canada was only able to get a 2-2 draw in their first group stage match against Guadeloupe.
A match that Canada was expected to win, they failed to find their footing in the first half despite having that majority of possession.
Questions will be asked about several key areas, including John Herdman’s substitutions.
Throughout the first 20 minutes, Guadeloupe looked the more dangerous side. Canada held the majority of possession, but their build-up was tentative.
Thierry Ambrose almost opened up the scoring in the 16th minute. The striker got through Vitoria and McGraw to receive the ball behind the Canadian defensive line. Borjan had to stand tall to make the save, but it was a foreshadowing of what the Guadeloupian player could do.
And he made good on it in the 23rd minute. Ambrose spun Vitoria around and found himself free into the 6-yard box. Borjan again tried to make himself big, but it was not enough to keep the ball out.
Canada was able to find some positive movement through Ali Ahmed on the right and Liam Millar on the left. Both players were able to use their speed to get by their defenders and get balls into the box.
But that was not the issue in the first half. Finishing was. Out of 10 shots, only two were on target. And one of those was by Millar from about 30 yards out. There were no shots on target from Canada’s strikers.
Canada thought they had a penalty to start the second half. Junior Hoilett was brought down by three Guadeloupian players, but VAR deemed contact to be outside the box.
However, Lucas Cavallini must have taken offence to that. Only minutes later, he received a cross from Hoilett across the box and put it in the back of the net for Canada’s first in the 49th minute.
Cavallini could have had a second only five minutes later. His header, again from service by Hoilett, was at a point-blank distance. But it was directly into Davy Rouyard, who held on.
Canada continued to dominate in the second half, especially through Hoilett and Ahmed. But an interesting substitution of Hoilett for Charles Brym raised a few eyebrows. The Reading man had been the best creator on the pitch for Canada.
But it was a role Ahmed was happy to take over. He was a constant threat in the middle of the park as well as at the edge of the 18-yard box.
In the 70th minute, it paid off. His 1-2 allowed him to get free and play in Laryea inside the box. The ball fumbled between Toronto FC player and Meddy Lina with it ending up in the back of the net as an own goal.
And the gut punch for Canada came in stoppage time. Jacen Russell-Rowe, subbed on late for his debut Canadian cap, but the ball into his own net trying to intercept a pass.
The final minute played out with neither side having time to try for the win. A 2-2 result was what Canada had to settle for.
Debuts all around
Ahmed, Bombito and McGraw all were given debut starts for Canada. Russell-Rowe and Dominick Zator got their first caps through substitution.
In particular, Ahmed shined in his debut. The Vancouver Whitecaps player gave a Man of the Match performance, handling 1v1s, being creative in setting up the attack, defending and interrupting play.
Canada plays on Saturday, July 1 against Guatemala for their second match of the group stage.