Davies scores twice, Canada beat Curaçao in CONCACAF Nations League game


The Canadian men’s soccer team put a dramatic week behind them with a decisive 4-0 win over Curacao to open their CONCACAF Nations League campaign on Thursday.

The victory follows a week in which the Canadian players missed two training sessions and refused to play a friendly against Panama in Vancouver due to an ongoing contract dispute.

Canada, ranked 38th in the world, didn’t seem to have much rust to shake off Thursday, however, putting pressure on number 79 Curacao just two minutes into the game.

Alphonso Davies scored twice, including from a first-half penalty, while Steven Vitoria and Lucas Cavallini each added a goal.

It was a quiet night for Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan, who didn’t face any shots on target. Eloy Room made five saves for Curacao.

Canada continues its Nations League game on Monday as it takes on number 82 Honduras in San Pedro Sula.

The Canadians sealed the score at 4-0 in the 86th minute.

Sam Adekugbe passed Cavallini inside the penalty area and the ball was deflected by the Vancouver Whitecaps forward as it fell to the grass.

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Cavallini came off the bench in the 76th minute for Tajon Buchanan.

Two shirtless protesters with « Save Old Growth » messages written on their bodies briefly affixed themselves to the Curacao goal posts midway through the second half. They were picked up by security and taken off the field by the police.

Canada exploded after the brief break with another home and away goal.

Davies sent the ball to substitute Richie Laryea deep in the penalty area and Laryea quickly put it back on Davies’ foot. Davies netted it from the top of the penalty area in the 74th minute for his second goal of the game.

The crowd of 17,216 rose to a standing ovation when Davies was replaced by Ike Ugbo in the 76th minute.

The Canadians controlled much of the action throughout the first half, squeezing Curaçao into their own end for long stretches and outscoring the visitors 15-2 and 5-0 on shots on target.

Davies opened the scoring in the 27th minute after being pulled inside the penalty area by Jurien Gaari.

The 21-year-old Canadian star came over to take the kick, pulling himself together with a deep breath before sending a low shot into the bottom left corner of the net. He raised his fist and blew a kiss to the crowd before being mobbed by his teammates in celebration.

Davies was playing his first game at BC Place since October 2018, when he was a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps. The ‘Caps have moved the speedy midfielder to German soccer giants Bayern Munich in a club-record $22 million US deal.

Canada’s Sam Adekugbe (3) leaps into the pile as players celebrate Steven Vitoria’s goal against Curacao in the first half of a CONCACAF Nations League soccer match in Vancouver on Thursday. (Darry Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Davies helped set up Canada’s second goal of the night on Thursday with a corner kick late in the first half.

His ball was saved by Room, but the Curacao keeper couldn’t hold it and Jonathan David grabbed the rebound. He sent a ball to Vitoria who headed it to give Canada a 2-0 lead.

Thursday’s match marked Canada’s first game at home since earning a World Cup berth with a victory over Jamaica in Toronto on March 27. It’s the first time Canada has qualified for the tournament since 1986.

The team was scheduled to play a warm-up friendly against Panama in Vancouver on Sunday, but the game was canceled at the last minute when the players refused to enter the pitch due to heated discussions with Canada Soccer, the national sports governing body.

The players released a statement saying they wanted more transparency from the organization, a fair compensation structure for the men’s and women’s national teams, and World Cup compensation comprising 40% of the prize money and a « complete friends and family package » for the 2022 Tournament in Qatar.

Canada Soccer has yet to reach a new agreement with the athletes, but the players returned to training on Monday and Wednesday, the organisation’s acting general secretary Earl Cochrane said the negotiations had been positive.

The Canadians dominated the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with an 8-2-4 record — and went 14-2-4 through three qualifying rounds. They ended the qualifying round with a 1-0 defeat at Panama on March 30.

Curaçao opened their CONCACAF Nations League campaign with a 2-1 win over Honduras on Monday.

The group stage of the 2022-23 tournament will serve as qualification for the 2023 Gold Cup. Group play will continue in March 2023 with the Nations League finals scheduled for June 2023.

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