EDMONTON — Canada finds itself in uncharted territory in its quest for a berth in the FIFA 2022 Qatar World Cup — alone in top spot of CONCACAF's final round of qualifying with six games to go.
Arriving in Edmonton last week in third place, the Canadians climbed into first in the eight-team table with a pair of victories — a 1-0 win over Costa Rica and then Tuesday's thrilling 2-1 win over world No. 9 Mexico on a frigid night at Commonwealth Stadium.
With four wins and four draws, Canada remains the only unbeaten team in qualifying as it continues its push to its first World Cup appearance since 1986.
With home points at a premium, the two victories were huge with just two more games on home soil remaining, Jan. 30 versus the U.S., and March 20 versus Jamaica. The venues for those two games are still to be determined.
The four remaining road games are in Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Panama.
The top three countries qualify for next year's World Cup, and the No. 4 team advances to a playoff.
Momentum continues to build for the Canadians, who advanced to the so-called "Octagonal" final stage of qualifying for the first time since 1998.
Canada's men's national team is currently ranked 48th in the world.
When FIFA updates its rankings on Nov. 25, Canada will likely move up in the standings after its victory over the higher ranked Mexico.
Canada's best ranking was No. 40 in December 1996. But the new rankings mark the first time the Canadians have broken into the top 50 since FIFA revamped its rating formula in 2018.
The Mexicans' loss to Canada was their first since 2000 and the first World Cup qualifying loss to Canada since 1976.
Cyle Larin's two goals in the victory tied him with Dwayne De Rosario as the top Canadian men's goal-scorer in history with 22.
The Canadian women, gold medallists at the recent Tokyo Olympics, are currently ranked sixth by FIFA.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2021.
The Canadian Press