TORONTO — Canadian soccer fans rejoiced upon seeing Canada's men's soccer team clinch a berth in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after a 4-0 win over Jamaica on Sunday at BMO Field.
This is just the second time Canada's men's soccer team has reached the World Cup in its history and the first time since 1986.
The World Cup is considered to be the most prestigious international soccer event in the world, taking place every four years.
The 2022 World Cup will take place from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18.
"In a way I've been waiting 36 years (for this moment), but it's been mostly the last 15-20 years when I've been watching it closely," said Rob Nootenboom, who travelled from Regina to witness Canada's clinching moment. "It feels like half my life, and I guess it is half my life, almost."
The scene at BMO Field was a festive one with fans coming into Sunday's game ready to celebrate knowing that Canada only needed to draw or outright beat Jamaica in order to see their team reach the World Cup.
Cyle Larin of Brampton, Ont., scored Canada's first goal in the 13th minute of the 90-minute match and from there the party was on with the BMO crowd erupting into cheers and celebration.
Or rather, it just continued on.
Festivities began well before the game's 4 p.m. ET opening kickoff, with fans beginning to arrive at the BMO Field parking lot at noon for tailgating, and to play a few rounds of cornhole while high-energy hip-hop music blasted out of the back of a trunk.
"This is probably going to be one of the biggest sporting moments in the history of our country," said Bruce Rayakovich of Brampton, who jumped onto the bandwagon last June during Canada's World Cup qualifying campaign. "To be here for an event like that is just an unbelievable feeling."
Rayakovich came to Sunday's match with his two sons, 11-year-old Bray and 13-year-old Branden, with hopes that he would witness something special, and he wasn't disappointed.
In the 44th minute, Tajon Buchanon, another Brampton native, scored the Canadians' second goal, sending BMO field into such a frenzy that the vibrations from the rocking crowd could be felt from the press box.
At that point, everyone in the building knew that Canada was absolutely guaranteed to be heading to the World Cup in Qatar and the sense of relief came out in raucous celebration.
And when Canada scored its last two goals in the final eight minutes of the contest, courtesy of Brampton's Junior Hoilett and an own-goal from Jamaica's Adrian Mariappa, BMO Field hit fever-pitch pandemonium.
"It has sunk in that the team has qualified for Qatar, that we will be at the World Cup and it's the first time in my lifetime," said Benjaminn Wolff of Ottawa. "My dad remembers the days when Canada qualified for '86, but I was born after that, so this is a first for me.
"I'm incredibly excited, incredibly pumped and am really looking forward to seeing the team on the biggest stage."
The historic win drew reaction from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian women's captain Christine Sinclair, among others.
"That’s what I’m talking about! Congratulations to the Canada men’s national soccer team – taking us to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years," tweeted Trudeau.
"We are going to QATAR," tweeted Sinclair, who has represented Canada at five women's World Cups.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2022.
Steven Loung, The Canadian Press