Toronto, Canada: Canada qualified for the World Cup finals for just the second time on Sunday, beating Jamaica 4-0 to book their ticket to Qatar and end 36 years of failure and heartache.
While Canada celebrated, Mexico and the United States will have to wait to learn their fate despite picking up wins along with Costa Rica, who also kept their Qatar hopes alive.
The United States got a hat-trick from Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic as they romped to a 5-1 home win over Panama while Mexico needed a 70th minute goal from Edson Alvarez to win 1-0 and avoid a humiliating draw with winless Honduras.
The victory for Canada puts the leaders on 28 points in the CONCACAF qualifying group, three points ahead of the United States and Mexico, with Costa Rica, who beat El Salvador 2-1, a further three points back.
The top three teams earn automatic places in November’s World Cup with the fourth-place finisher facing an Oceania team in an intercontinental playoff for another berth.
Mexico will host El Salvador on Wednesday, the United States travel to San Jose to take on Costa Rica and Canada wrap up their campaign against Panama. Both Mexico and the United States require only a draw to seal an automatic berth.
After failing to clinch a finals spot with a 1-0 away loss to Costa Rica on Thursday, Canada returned home with renewed purpose and a chance to complete the job in front of a frenzied, red-clad, flag-waving, sold-out crowd of nearly 30,000 at BMO Field.
“I’m just so pleased we didn’t win in Costa Rica,” said Canada coach John Herdman. “This is how it was meant to be, I know why the football gods wouldn’t let us score, it was for tonight.
“We just qualified for the World Cup, this is a legit football country.”
There would be no blown second opportunity as Cyle Larin and Tajon Buchanan netted in the first half and Junior Hoilett added another after the break with Adrian Mariappa’s own goal rounding off the scoring.
Canada will play at the World Cup for the first time since 1986 in Mexico, where they lost all three games and failed to score a goal.
“I think this country never believed in us because we’ve given them nothing to believe in,” said Herdman. “They believe now.
“This is the time for everyone to get behind football and unite because we can be a powerhouse.”
It was a warm welcome home on a biting cold afternoon, making it the classic Canadian stage to take on a Jamaican side anchored near the bottom of the eight-team group in seventh, with one win and no hope of getting to Qatar.
There was a time during their 36-year quest to return to a World Cup finals that playing at home was no different than away for Canada, with as many fans supporting the visitors as the home side.
But there were no split allegiances on Sunday in a lopsided contest Canada dominated from start to finish.