Alphonso Davies made the perfect return to international duty with a brace in Canada’s 4-0 victory over Curaçao in the Concacaf Nations League on Thursday.
The Bayern Munich star had missed the Canucks’ last six World Cup qualifiers after being diagnosed with myocarditis but came back into the fold where he made his professional debut at BC Place – home of his former club, the Vancouver Whitecaps.
After being dragged down in the box by Curaçao’s Juriën Gaari, Davies sent Columbus Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room the wrong way from the spot to put the CanMNT 1-0 up after 27 minutes.
From there, Canada asserted their dominance and made it 2-0 on 40 minutes, defender Steven Vitoria scoring from close range after Jonathan David profited from a mistake by Room to provide the assist.
It took until the 57th minute for Curaçao – coming off a 2-1 win away at Honduras a week earlier – to seriously threaten Canada, with Rangelo Janga having an effort blocked after goalkeeper Milan Borjan failed to claim a ball inside his box.
Davies went on to double his tally for the night in the 71st minute, applying a simple finish from a cut-back by Nottingham Forest full-back Richie Laryea after good combination work between the duo. Moments later, Davies was withdrawn to a wonderful ovation from the BC Place crowd.
Even with Davies on the bench, Canada were able to round off the result with a fourth goal, Whitecaps forward Lucas Cavallini scoring in front of a home crowd from Samuel Adekugbe’s cross.
Almost seven months since his last international – a famous 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Mexico – it was great to see Davies back on the pitch for Canada.
Making his 31st appearance for his country, the Bayern Munich star quickly reminded everyone just how crucial he’ll be to Canada’s World Cup hopes.
Aside from netting a brace, taking his international tally to 12, Davies was a menace all evening, attempting five shots in total, creating three chances with an Expected Assist value of 0.26, and winning 71% of his 14 duels.
Naturally given his role as a full-back with Bayern, Davies also chipped in defensively with four successful tackles.
But, of course, it was Davies’ goals that grabbed the headlines, finding the net for Canada for the first time since mid-October and moving him to within two strikes of Junior Hoilett and the top 10 on the all-time scoring charts.
It’s been a tough week for John Herdman, who has had to refocus minds for this match following the cancelation of a midweek friendly against Panama due to ongoing labor negotiations between players and Canada Soccer.
Speaking to reporters after the match, Herdman praised his team for not only being able to block out the noise and produce a strong performance, but also dealing with the pressure of their new-found status as one of the giants of Concacaf.
“I said to the boys coming in here, teams are hunting us now. For teams like Curaçao, every game is a cup final when you’re now one of the top teams,” said Herdman.
“We can’t take a day off. That intensity has to be there and with everything that’s gone on this week, I just said to the lads [before the game], ‘make sure we score tonight, make sure you give it everything to put that ball in the back of the net and have these fans cheering’.
“I’m happy tonight. We took a big step forward and we’ve got another big step we have to take against Honduras [on Monday].”
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