Fans screamed, jumped out of their seats and embraced each other at a sold-out watch party in downtown Toronto as Alphonso Davies scored Canada’s first-ever goal at the Men’s World Cup on Sunday.
The star winger and Bayern Munich player headed the ball home to give Canada a 1-0 lead over Croatia shortly after the first minute of the do-or-die game.
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Canada must win if it hopes to progress further in the tournament.
Nearly a hundred fans at the west-end viewing, most donning Canada’s red and white colours, cheered again during replays of the goal, some shaking their head in disbelief.
Canada failed to score or secure a point after Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Belgium, failing to convert a slew of chances despite shining in their first game at the international soccer showcase in 36 years.
The national squad did not score or secure a point in its first trip to the tournament in 1986, exiting after three first-round losses in Mexico.
Ahead of the game’s start, Lauren Wharton, a Canada fan and soccer player at Toronto’s Central Technical School, said “I’m going to throw up, I’m very nervous.”
She said there’s an immense amount of pressure on the team to get a point out of the match and avoid elimination following the loss to Belgium.
“Now there’s even more pressure because we know how the team can do, but knowing that they have to do what they know they can, it’s a lot,” she said. “I’m hoping for a couple quick goals.”
The pressure is on for the 41st-ranked Canadians as well as No. 12 Croatia, as both teams need to get points out of the match to preserve any chance of moving on.
The crowd erupted in cheers at Burgundy Lion pub in downtown Montreal when Canada scored the goal. Dave Desmarais said at the pub he remembers seeing Canada play back in 1986.
“I’m here to cheer on Canada. I’m very excited. I did see them play and they have progressed more than any other team in the world,” he said.
A loss for Canada would mean the Canadians can finish with no more than three points while Croatia ups its total to four, and no matter what happens in today’s game between No. 2 Belgium and No. 22 Morocco, one of those teams will have at least four points.
With only two teams advancing out of the group, a loss today would render Canada’s final group game next Thursday with Morocco meaningless in terms of tournament progression.
Belgium tops Group F with three points, while Croatia and Morocco both have one point after their scoreless draw.
Croatia goes into Sunday’s match riding a seven-game unbeaten streak dating back to a 3-0 loss to Austria in June UEFA Nations League play.
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