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.
Not many people expected Canada to reach that 2000 Gold Cup Final, but as the tournament progressed, the side coached by Holger Osieck gained momentum with every win and it culminated with a superb display in the 2-0 win over Colombia.
“I think it’s the best match we’ve ever played, certainly in my time on the field. I look back on it as being one of freedom and free-flowing. We didn’t play with a care in the world and played with an openness that we hadn’t had up to that point,” said former Canada DF Jason deVos, who now serves as Canada Soccer’s Director of Development.
“It wasn’t a nice day. It was rainy, it was miserable. We won our individual battles and played as a unit and came away as deserved winners I felt, and the celebrations afterwards were something we had never experienced before,” added deVos.
Canada’s first and only Gold Cup crown could not have happened without a bit of good fortune, however. In the group stage, Canada found themselves tied with South Korea on points and every tiebreaker. To decide which team advanced, deVos and his teammates had to watch on as a coin flip decided their fate.
“I’ve never had that experience in my life, but I still remember standing in the back of the tent that was set up at the stadium and our coach Holger Osieck was at the front. Holger looked down at the coin and looked back at us and gave a thumbs up and we went nuts,” said deVos.
That set in motion a knockout round stretch that started with Canada’s first ever Gold Cup victory over Mexico, who were three-time defending champions.
“We were a team that was well organized defensively, but we knew we couldn’t go toe-to-toe with Mexico from an attacking perspective. We went into the game with a very clear game plan and conceded the first goal, but we never came out of our shell and when Carlo [Corazzin] equalized, I think the Mexicans were stunned and this wasn’t the script they were used to. They maybe expected us to chase them and go after them. We managed to stick to that game plan and equalized and went to sudden death. The goal was a classic counterattacking move. Richie hit the back of the net and it will always be the greatest goal of his career,” said deVos.
Following that euphoric victory, there was a true belief that something special was happening within the Canada camp.
“I remember sitting on the bus afterward and someone said, ‘We could actually win this thing.’ When you beat a team like Mexico, the belief starts to grow in the camp. As fairy tale stories are written, I don’t think it would have been scripted because nobody would have ever believed it at the start of the tournament,” said deVos.
After downing Mexico, next up was a very difficult Trinidad and Tobago side in the semifinals, which became the de facto Concacaf final since the other semifinal pitted Soiuth American invitees Colombia and Peru. Not only was a place in the Final at stake, but a spot in the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup.
“It was difficult to get ourselves back up again a few short days later. I look back on the game and I don’t think we played very well. I think Trinidad felt hard done by, but we had Craig Forrest in goal who was incredible throughout the tournament and that game specifically almost single-handedly got us through to the Final,” said deVos.
While the Canadian players were enjoying the magical ride during that February, deVos explains with a chuckle that the Canadian players playing professionally in Europe were continuously calling their clubs back in Europe to explain that their return would be delayed.
“At every stage of the tournament you would phone back to your club in Europe and every phone call they were screaming at you, ‘What do you mean you beat Mexico and you’re going to be there another week?’ ‘What do you mean you beat Trinidad and you’re going to be there another week?’ But it was nice to phone back to Europe and say, ‘Ah, we’re going to be a little bit longer because we’re still in the tournament.’ It was in the middle of our season. We didn’t get welcomed back to our clubs. I was at Dundee United at the time and my manager didn’t have a big smile on his face when I came back and he didn’t really congratulate me. He was more annoyed that I was away for five weeks,” said deVos.
Having defeated Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in the semifinals, Canada officially clinched a berth in the 2001 Confederations Cup in Japan, where they achieved the noteworthy result of a 0-0 draw with Brazil.
“The game against Brazil, I don’t think I got over the halfway line. We pretty much defended for 90 minutes, but the resilience of the group was strong and we were able to keep them to a scoreless draw. It was a great result. It wasn’t their top team, their best players were not there, but they did have some players that went on to have some stellar careers, but it doesn’t take away from the experience,” said De Vos.
DeVos points to Canada’s qualification for the 1986 FIFA World Cup as the “spark” that inspired him to play football for his country and his hope is that the current Canadian National Team can be the catalyst for future generations.
“I look at the group now and under the leadership of [Head Coach] John Herdman, who has put in a comprehensive plan in place, I can say that I’ve never been more excited about the men’s game and what this team could do. Hosting in 2026 is down the road, but we’re looking at 2022. I know John is and the players are looking at it, to qualify outright and get to a World Cup and win in a World Cup. We’re no longer just happy to participate; we’re setting the bar high for this generation and the next generation and that excites me. I get chills just thinking about it. It’s really exciting for the future of the game in our country,” concluded De Vos.