Alphonso Davies emerging as the Christine Sinclair of Canada’s men’s soccer team

How good was Alphonso Davies on Wednesday night in Canada’s 4-1 home win over Panama in a crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifier?

So good that Canadian rapper Drake immediately reached out to Davies after the game.

“He just got a text from Drake. Drake wants to meet with the (team). Hopefully tonight he gets a chance to take that off his bucket list. That’s the type of performance (Davies) had,” coach John Herdman told reporters after the match.

Everyone wants a piece of Davies these days, and for good reason. One of this country’s greatest athletes, the 20-year-old Edmonton native led his team to a memorable victory with a man-of-the-match effort that saw him score one goal and set up another, helping to keep alive Canada’s dreams of World Cup qualification. 

The pressure was squarely on the Reds after its draw against lowly Jamaica on the weekend, while Panama beat the U.S. Those results allowed Panama to leapfrog Canada into third place — the top three teams among the eight-nation field at the end of the CONCACAF campaign next March qualify for the 2022 World Cup. 

Canada desperately needed to pick up the win on Wednesday to climb back over top of Panama, and build momentum going into next month when it plays a tricky pair of home games against table-toppers Mexico and Costa Rica. The occasion called for the Canadians to step up in a big way. They didn’t disappoint.

Davies (19) speed and skill were too much for the Panamanians to contain. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

One-man wrecking crew

A raucous crowd of 26,622 fans at BMO Field were treated to a memorable night, with Davies at the centre of it all. It was a sparkling display from the Bayern Munich star, who was a one-man wrecking crew against the Central Americans. With Canada down 1-0 early, Davies danced his way through five Panamanian players with the ball glued to his feet in a sequence that led to the team’s first scoring chance.

But the best was yet to come from Davies, whose brilliant individual effort saw Canada take a 2-1 lead in the second half and then cruise to victory.

Jonathan David played a pass forward that was headed out for the throw-in, but Davies went on a lung-busting run 20 yards away, starting from inside his half, to win the ball as Panama’s Harold Cummings tried to shepherd it out.

After using his trailing foot to pick the pocket of the defender, Davies glided into the penalty area, sidestepped defender defender Fidel Escobar and using teammate Tajon Buchanan as a decoy, beat goalkeeper Luis Meija with a low shot that left the Panamanian standing as though he was stuck in cement.

It was an unreal play only a few in the world could pull off. 

WATCH | Alphonso Davies’s spectacular goal:

Alphonso Davies’ spectacular goal leads Canada past Panama in CONCACAF World Cup qualifier

Forward Alphonso Davies scores with an incredible individual effort as Canada defeats Panama 4-1 in their CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match. 1:47

“I started picking up pace and after that, I just committed to it,” Davies said. “He’s a bigger body than me, so I knew he was going to come with his body, so I tried to slow down to avoid contact and try to keep the ball in. When I did that, it was a [two against one] and I tried to look for [Buchanan,] but I beat [Escobar] and in my mind I was, ‘Just shoot the ball.’

So, I shot the ball across the ‘keeper and I’m happy that it went in.”

Canadian goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was left in awe by Davies’ pure hustle that led to the jaw-dropping goal.

“It was pretty cool. A great run. He believes. He believes that he could get there,” Crepeau said. “I’ve witnessed a lot of good goals, but that was a great moment for the country, to make the stadium explode.”

Perhaps just as important as Davies’ highlight reel material was the leadership he displayed. The youngster has greatly matured since making his national team debut as a teenager in 2017, showing a wisdom well beyond his years. 

Tajon Buchanan (centre), another of Canada’s young stars, scores against Panama on Wednesday. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Lit a fire under teammates

Davies wasn’t wearing the captain’s armband on Wednesday, but that didn’t prevent him from lighting a fire under his teammates when needed. Moments after Panama opened the scoring, David found himself with a good look on goal after a great feed from Davies, but passed the ball off instead.

The Bayern Munich star had a quick conversation with his teammate in the aftermath of that gilt-edged scoring chance. The next time David was set up inside the box by Davies, he didn’t hesitate and struck a shot that forced a fantastic save from Meija.

“Phonzie’s a big influencer in this group. He’s a humble guy, but when he speaks it reminds us of (Christine) Sinclair. When he speaks, people listen,” Herdman said.

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