By ALAN SHACKLETON
The soccer fans in The Gull and Firkin pub on Queen Street East in the Beach were ready to celebrate what would have been a huge goal putting the Canadian men’s team into a 2-2 tie with Morocco in the World Cup game played Thursday morning.
But unfortunately it was not meant to be.
The headed ball struck the bottom of the crossbar, went straight down and bounced off the goal line before being headed again over the net by a Canadian player. The ball partially, but not entirely, crossed the goal line. And so ended Canada’s chances of gaining a point at the 2022 World Cup now taking place in Qatar.
Appearing in the World Cup for the first time since 1986 in Mexico, the Canadian men’s team lost all three matches it played. Canada lost its opener 1-0 to Belgium on Nov. 23, then fell 4-1 to Croatia on Nov. 27, and lost the Thursday, Dec. 1, game 2-1 to Morocco.
Canadian fans at The Gull and Firkin, however, were far from crying in their beer after Thursday’s match came to a close. They were already making plans for the 2026 World Cup which Canada is guaranteed a spot in since we are one of the host countries.
“I think this was quite promising for 2026,” said Les Jones at the pub shortly after the Canada-Morocco match ended.
“This was a lesson for our team and I think it will serve us well, and we’ll be playing in front of our own fans at home.”
Jones, who has long been involved with Canadian soccer and was at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and watched Canada play in it, said there were a lot of positives to take out of the Canadian men’s performance in Qatar even though the team has been eliminated from further play.
“In terms of possession, we outplayed them,” he said of Canada’s games against both Belgium and Morocco. “The biggest difference is in the finish and the ratio of shots on target. I think Morocco really only had two shots on goal and they scored them both.”
Canada got off to shaky start against Morocco conceding two early goals, one of them off a terrible play involving the Canadian goalie flubbing a pass back to him.
However, instead of giving up, the Canadian team brought the final two-thirds of the game to Morocco and nearly came back for the tie.
The crowd at The Gull of Firkin would have considered a tie this morning as good as victory for Canada as it would have marked our first point ever at the men’s World Cup.
Among the crowd watching at The Gull was Canadian soccer legend Dick Howard.
He agreed with Jones that this year was an important experience for the Canadian team to go through, and better things will be ahead in 2026.
“It was a great learning experience for the Canadian team. In two of the three games they gave a very good account of themselves. We were by far the better team against Belgium,” said Howard who was born in England but had a long career in pro soccer in North America and with the Canadian national team.
After Morocco’s second goal it looked bleak, but Howard said he was impressed by the Canadian team’s mental toughness and refusal to give up.
“We gave away the first goal and it was bad defending on the second goal. To Canada’s credit, they fought back and could have got the draw. We dominated in the second half, and that ball bounced down and off the goaline,” he said.
Howard, who lives in the area, is a member of the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame and played in goal for Canada’s men’s team in the 1960s and early 1970s. He then went into a long career of coaching and soccer broadcasting.
Also providing inspiration for local fans at The Gull and Firkin this morning was the statue of Moose, a soccer player in the Canadian team’s red uniform. The statue belongs to Jones and had been on display on his porch in the Beach, but it was decided Moose needed to be where the action was for Canada’s game today.
Jones said he and many other Beach area soccer fans he knows will now be cheering for England, which has qualified for the Round of 16. England will play Senegal on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. and Jones will be at The Gull and Firkin watching it.
“We’ll be here for the England games, and we’re all in it for them now. And maybe the U.S.A. too,” he said.
The United States also qualified for the Round of 16 and will play the Netherlands on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 10 a.m.