MIAMI, Florida – This Friday at 7:00 PM ET, Concacaf will be airing a re-broadcast of two Concacaf Gold Cup classics, the first being the 2000 Gold Cup Final between Canada and Colombia, followed by the 2015 Gold Cup Final between Mexico and Jamaica. Both matches will be shown on Concacaf’s Facebook and YouTube pages, plus the Concacaf App.
Sitting in his Toronto, Canada home, it does not take long for former Canada GK Craig Forrest to think of the perfect word to sum up Canada’s 2000 Gold Cup title.
“Miracle,” said Forrest, while cracking a smile in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com
The man who took home that tournament’s Most Valuable Player award goes on to explain why it felt like the most improbable of titles.
“History has shown us since then that the U.S. and Mexico dominate our area of the world and have done that since its inception. Plus, the level was high with the invitational teams with South Korea, Colombia and Peru. We as a nation have struggled to score goals most of the time. Defensively we were a good unit, but we when we would compete, we always struggled to put together a string of games good enough to win a tournament and we have struggled since then as well,” said Forrest.
“But the stars aligned and we had a terrific group of players who would show up win, lose or draw. We never though we would do something so special in our careers, but it was certainly something that none of us will ever forget,” added Forrest.
Forrest was 32 years old when the tournament kicked off in February of 2000 and had enough seasons under his belt in England, plus enough international matches with Canada, to be able to handle the highs and lows of tournament football. It was just the right time for him to deliver a performance to remember.
“I was more even keeled for sure and dealt with the disappointments and the highs much better than when I was younger. I was feeling as good as I ever felt as a goalkeeper and as confident, but a lot of things have to come into play for me to win MVP, like Carlo Corazzin scoring timely goals. You need a good structure, tactical awareness and confidence to beat anybody on the day and just being able to put that string together of games against opposition that was ranked high in the world at that time was amazing. It was mind-blowing at times when we were going through it,” said Forrest.
After surviving the group stage that saw Canada advance on a coin flip, Canada registered a historic first Gold Cup win over Mexico that had a meaning not lost on Forrest.
“I know the power and the strength and the ability of the Mexico players. They could put out a fifth team that would compete against Canada. We know that and I always loved playing against the Mexicans. Their tactical awareness, their game management, their support. I had a lot of envy toward them for that as well, so to be able to beat them and compete against some of the really good Mexican teams of the past was really pleasing,” said Forrest.
In the semifinals, Canada went up against fellow Concacaf side Trinidad and Tobago, and Forrest was the protagonist of one of the match’s key moments when he stopped a penalty that was a true battle of the minds.
“Carlo Corazzin played with that player [David Nakhid] in England and ran in and gave me some advice. He said that he’ll go to your left every single time….. and so I went to my right and saved it! I think that player knew that Carlo had told me that he went one way all the time, so it turned into a mind game. People said, ‘Carlo Corazzin must have given you some great advice.’ And I say, ‘Well, he did. He absolutely did,’” Forrest said with a chuckle.
Canada would then claim their first and only Gold Cup crown with a 2-0 win over Colombia in the Final in which Forrest won another battle of wits to save a penalty from Colombia star Faustino Asprilla.
“I played against him when he was at Newcastle and knew his pedigree. I had an inkling that he would try to stutter-step and make me react first. I decided to hold my position as long as I could and as he approached the ball, he did that. He had to look up and I think when he looked up, he was expecting me to be leaning one way or another and then slot it into the empty side. Because I was still standing there and the fact that he didn’t have much of a run-up, I knew that it did not have as much power and it would be more of a placement. At that point it’s just a question of which way will he go and I guessed right,” said Forrest.
Forrest’s last appearance in a Canada shirt came in 2002, but he still keeps tabs on how Concacaf goalkeepers are faring around the world and he is pleased to see that shot-stoppers from all around the region are getting a chance to measure themselves against the world’s best.
“I think Keylor Navas is the best goalkeeper in Concacaf right now. I think now we see more of a trust of putting in Central American goalkeepers, Mexican goalkeepers. It’s great to see goalkeepers from Central America doing well in Europe and I think there is now a trust that they can compete and play at the highest level. I think these GKs have always been very good, now they are getting a chance to prove it,” said Forrest.
Like every fan of the Canadian National Team, Forrest is brimming with excitement about the national team’s chances of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, thanks in part to a young generation of players that includes emerging superstar Alphonso Davies.
“It’s amazing and it proves that dreams can come true for someone like Alphonso. It’s an opportunity that our immigration system gave him and his family and he has embraced it. He’s a great individual. Just the fact that we talk about him being one of the best left backs in the world at this stage of his career is just mind-blowing.
“It’s exciting times for Canada because we have some other good young players as well. Jonathan David is coming out of Belgium and going to Lille, which is an interesting move for him and I think he’ll be playing a lot. There is pressure on Canada to qualify for 2022 and not just get the gift of 2026. I think the players are looking at 2022 because we want to make the most of the opportunity and Canada has the ability to do it,” concluded Forrest.