When the draw for the Gold Cup was done, Canada couldn’t be happier. The Maple Leaf would not face any FIFA top 100 team in the group stage.

So, if the slightest logic existed, John Herdman’s men were to outrageously dominate this group which also featured Guadeloupe, Guatemala and Cuba.

However, they needed to snatch an imperative 4-2 victory against Cuba on Tuesday night, to sneak in as the second team in the standings. Despite the two draws at the start of the tournament, it will be enough to reach the quarter-finals to cross swords with the Americans.

It was this win against a partially withdrawn national team without a Gold Cup victory since 2015 that made the difference. If Canada’s ambitions are to rise to the top of CONCACAF, they have proven that without their stars, it doesn’t matter much.

The Canadian tenors skipped the competition to take a few weeks off before the start of training camps in the European leagues. This list notably includes Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Stephen Eustáquio, Ismaël Koné, Tajon Buchanan, Alistair Johnston and Cyle Larin.