ALBERTA, CANADA (REUTERS) - Cyle Larin struck twice to lift Canada to a chilling 2-1 win over Mexico in frigid Edmonton on Tuesday (Nov 16), enabling the host nation to climb to the top of the Concacaf 2022 World Cup qualifying standings.
Canada remain the only unbeaten team after eight matches, sitting in first place on 16 points followed by the United States with 15 after a 1-1 draw with Jamaica.
It is an unfamiliar spot for the Canadians who have only once before qualified for a World Cup, in 1986.
"It's about what is going on in this country and the direction the programme is going in," said 38-year-old midfielder Atiba Hutchinson after making his record 90th appearance for Canada.
"We go into games now with a lot of confidence and that is what I have always wanted for this team, this country."
The loss capped a miserable swing through North America for Mexico, who suffered a 2-0 loss to the United States on Friday and now find themselves on 14 points, level with Panama and in a fight for an automatic qualifying spot.
The top three in the eight-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-placed finishers going into an inter-continental play-off for another spot.
Mexico were welcomed to the Great White North by 50,000 mostly Canadian supporters bundled into the icy Commonwealth Stadium for what was one of the coldest matches ever played in the Concacaf region. Temperatures were hovering around -8 deg C.
Canada rewarded their fans with a stoppage-time goal in the first half when Larin coolly slotted home a loose ball after goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was unable to control a long-range attempt from Alistair Johnston.
Larin would find the back of the net again in the 52nd minute getting his right foot onto a superb Stephen Eustaquio free-kick, the team celebrating by diving into snowbanks rimming the field.
Hector Herrera's 90th minute header set up a nail-biting end to the contest. Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan denied Mexico an equaliser when he swept a ball off the goal-line in injury time.
In Kingston, the United States struck first in the 11th minute through Tim Weah before Michail Antonio levelled for Jamaica 11 minutes later from long range, his rocket dipping under the crossbar out the reach of goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Second-half strikes from Cecilio Waterman and Freddy Gondola two minutes apart helped Panama to claim a 2-1 win over El Salvador, who had stunned the home crowd when Jairo Henriquez scored in the opening minute in Panama City.
In San Jose, Gerson Torres scored in stoppage time to lift Costa Rica to a 2-1 win over Honduras.