DUBAI CITY, United Arab Emirates – A Lucas Cavallini penalty kick in extra time that barely crossed the line provided Canada with an upset 2-1 win against Japan in its FIFA World Cup tuneup on Thursday.
Richie Layrea was brought down in the box by Miki Yamane in the 94th minute, setting up Cavallini for his penalty kick.
Japan goalie Shuichi Gonda got his right arm on Cavallini’s floater down the middle, but the ball had just enough steam to bounce beyond the goal line.
The win in Dubai pushed Canada’s record to 3-2-3 since its successful World Cup CONCACAF qualifying run concluded last March.
Japan almost snatched the lead in the 89th minute when Yamane got in behind Canada’s back line and slammed a shot off the near right post.
Japan caught head coach John Herdman’s side off guard with an early goal. Yuki Soma positioned himself inside Canadian defender Kamal Miller to redirect Gaku Shibabaski’s pinpoint down-the-middle long ball into the box.
Soma stretched out to right foot the ball past Canadian keeper Milan Borgan in the ninth minute.
Canada tied the match in the 21st minute off a corner kick. Junior Hoilett found Atiba Hutchinson, whose touch found the 35-year-old Steven Vitoria near the far post.
Hoilett was busy in the first half with six corner kicks.
Canada had possession for 55 per cent of the game.
Canada opens the World Cup in Qatar against a powerhouse Belgium side on Wednesday and will finish the group stage with matches against Croatia on Nov. 27 and Morocco on Dec. 1.
Canada was without Alphonso Davies, who missed Bayern Munich’s final two games before the World Cup break with a hamstring strain. He remains in Munich to undergo treatment but expects to be fit to join Canada in time for the opener next week.
Herdman also kept Stephen Eustaquio out against Japan. He suffered a minor knock in training on Wednesday.
Canada exhibited plenty of pressure in an intense first half with a 4-4-2 formation. However, the final 45 minutes were spotty from both sides.
Jonathan David had Canada’s best second-half opportunity in the 74th minute before the deciding goal, but his shot from just outside the box missed to the left by six feet.
Japan enters the World Cup ranked 24th, compared to Canada at 41. Canada was ranked 78th at the time of the 2018 World Cup.
Canadian defender Alistair Johnston played in a national team record 28th consecutive game to pass Bruce Wilson’s old mark. Wilson, a Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame member, captained Canada in its last World Cup appearance in 1986.