Copa America play-in: Two second half goals by Canada end Trinidad and Tobago resistance

March 23 – Canada beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 at the Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, to pick up one of the two remaining slots for the Copa America 2024, to be played in the US this summer.

They will go into Group A, alongside Argentina, Chile, and Peru. 

It was an important win for the Canadians who have been celebrated as a breakthrough team on the Concacaf and world stage but after throwing away a winning position in the Nations League quarter finals and then losing on penalties to Jamaica, had suddenly left them in danger of not being at the summer fiesta.

It was an uncomfortable first half for the Canadians who had all the ball but probably not quite enough ‘b****’ to unlock a durable and motivated Trinidad defence.

Trinidad comfortably weathered the Canadian crosses into the box and showed threat of their own on their too infrequent counter attacks. They could easily have been a goal up with a bit more composure in front of goal with the two chances they had.

The second half saw more of an edge from the Canadians who at times show perhaps too much of a focus on getting better paid rather than what they are getting paid for. Goals from Cyle Larin and Jacob Shaffelburg ended a spirited Trinidad resistance.

Canada coach Mauro Biello held nothing back with Alphonso Davies and Tajon Buchanan providing world class line breaking ability on the wings, Jonathan David and Larin up front, and captain Stephen Eustaquio martialling the midfield, the backbone of their 2022 World Cup team, all starting.

In goal he favoured Portland Timbers stopper Maxine Crepeau over Minnesota United’s Dayne St Clair.

Trinidad & Tobago’s Angus Eve did not have the same all-star squad to pick from but lined up with five across the back with the imposing Aubrey David bossing the box, a solid three in front of them and AEK’s Levi Garcia and Atlanta United’s Ajani Fortune providing a physical threat front.

Canada quickly took control of possession with their threat coming from both wings.

On 3’ Davies took ball across the top of the box and laid it off to Buchanan who flashed his shot high over the bar.

Canada couldn’t find the final ball to find a way through the traffic in a very busy Trinidad box. Too many balls in the air were dealt with comfortably.

That inevitably left the Canadians open to counterattack and they were almost undone in the 17th minute when Levi Garcia hit the ball just wide of Crepeau’s left post.

Denzil Smith was a solid last line of defence for Trinidad and Tobago

On 27’ a confident looking Denzil Smith saved well to his left. Canada were edging closer but close enough.

Canada ended the half with 16 shots to Trinidad’s 2, having had 11 corners and 62% of possession, though the one-way traffic made it feel like more.

The second half started with a slightly more adventurous Trinidad. Andre Raymond pushed a shot wide of a beaten Crepeau. At the other end a Davies corner was flicked on by David but only into a wall of defenders on the Trinidad goal line.

Canada were still struggling to find the killer ball and were rarely winning the aerial battle in front of goal against a fearless and physical defence martialled by David. Eve brought on Reon Moore at centre forward for Andre Rampersad, opening a bit more space in his own midfield.

On 61’ minutes the Canadians had the lead. With ball coming into the Trinidad box on the ground rather than in the air, Buchanan picked out Larin who slid the ball past Smith.

Trinidad  now had to open up their defensive strong box  and commit players forward. Raymond forced a save from Crepeau while Garcia challenged for everything that came his way.

With the game opened and now hurtling from end-to-end, Garcia should have levelled. Clean through Crepeau saved low down.

Canada countered with four on two advantage. Davies’ shot was blocked for a corner. With the corner cleared to Jacob Shaffelburg, his shot from outside the box hammered into Smith’s left post.

Jacob Shaffelburg seals the Canadian win in added time

In added time Shaffelburg did score. This time showing up on the left of a Canadian counterattack, he thundered his shot into the roof of the net – 2-0.

Biello said he was “super happy for all out fans to be able to be at the Copa America”. More likely he was super relieved”.

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