Canada “can be a powerhouse” in men’s football, says their English coach, after they qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
The team assured themselves of a place at this winter’s tournament in Qatar with a 4-0 win over Jamaica on Sunday night in Toronto.
Canada’s women are Olympic champions and their former coach, John Herdman, is now in charge of the men’s team.
“We just qualified for the World Cup, this is a legit football country,” said Herdman, a former academy coach at Sunderland.
“When I first took over and I said, ‘We’re going to qualify for the World Cup’, I don’t think they believed us.
“I’m happy for them because all of these fans have waited and waited and waited, and hung in with us – and we’re going.
“I think this country never believed in us because we’ve given them nothing to believe in. They believe now.
“This is the time for everyone to get behind football and unite because we can be a powerhouse.”
Canada’s victory over Jamaica kept them top of the qualifying table for Concacaf, the federation for the Caribbean and Central and North America, ahead of USA and Mexico.
With one game left to play, they cannot finish lower than third, with the top three in the process progressing to the World Cup finals.
Reading winger Junior Hoilett was among the scorers in the win the clinched their first qualification for 36 years.
Other stars of the team include Bayern Munich left-back Alphonso Davies and Lille striker Jonathan David.
Herdman, 46, left England in 2003 to coach New Zealand Women before joining Canada, who he led to bronze medals at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
He took over the men’s team in 2018 and has overseen success in his first qualifying campaign for the World Cup.