‘Quintessentially Edmonton’ winter blast hits ahead of Canada-Mexico World Cup qualifying match

Click to play video: 'Canada and Mexico’s World Cup qualifying match to be played in a winter wonderland'
Canada and Mexico’s World Cup qualifying match to be played in a winter wonderland
WATCH ABOVE: (From Nov. 16, 2021) Tonight's World Cup qualifying soccer game in Edmonton will likely be one like you have never seen before. Canada will take to the pitch against Mexico amid snowy conditions in the city. Lisa MacGregor has more – Nov 16, 2021

On Tuesday evening, Commonwealth Stadium will welcome tens of thousands of soccer fans, hoping for a sea of red during a blustery blast of whiteout winter weather.

On Monday afternoon, a huge prairie storm swept in from the west, dumping snow across parts of Alberta, including Edmonton, bringing strong winds with it.

“I think this is almost quintessentially Edmonton,” said Dan St. Pierre, director of strategic communications and partnerships with Explore Edmonton.

“Here we are November in Edmonton… We were holding out hope, fingers crossed that we were going to make it through.

“But honestly, I think this is just going to amp it up,” St. Pierre said. “I think this is actually going to make it an even more exciting night because of the unusual circumstances.”

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He said more than 50,000 tickets have been sold for Tuesday’s match.

“Edmonton shows up. Rain, snow, sun, it doesn’t matter… Edmontonians take pride in showing up in any weather. Think back to the Heritage Classic in 2003. I was up in the upper deck with my old man in snowsuits. Edmonton shows up.”

Canada (3-0-4) is preparing to face Mexico in a game that could decide who goes to the top of the table in CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying Octagon.

Canada currently sits third, Mexico (4-1-2) is tied with the United States at the top.

The top three teams qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-place team gets a final chance to qualify through an intercontinental playoff.

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READ MORE: Canada wins 1-0 over Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying match at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium

Canada beat Costa Rica in Edmonton Friday, in front of more than 48,806 at Commonwealth Stadium. That game was played at 1 C — what some in Edmonton would consider balmy November conditions.

But Environment Canada is calling for heavy snow during the day Tuesday, followed by what could be -11 C temperatures around kickoff — and that’s before the wind chill is factored in.

“I think it’s going to make for a great match. One for the books for sure,” St. Pierre said.

“It’s clearly an opportunity of a lifetime, not only for Team Canada… but also for Edmonton to be part of the 2026 World Cup.”

Fans are being encouraged to take public transit and give themselves plenty of time to get to Commonwealth for the match.

A city traffic official said snow is being cleared from roads around the stadium.

“We’re prioritizing the routes that the charter buses are going to be travelling, the parking, the entrances, the gates and all of that infrastructure leading up to the actual stadium itself,” said Andrew Grant, general supervisor of infrastructure field operations at the city.

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“I know our partners at Commonwealth have all hands on deck.”

Click to play video: 'Wintry weather expected for Canada and Mexico’s World Cup qualifying match in Edmonton'
Wintry weather expected for Canada and Mexico’s World Cup qualifying match in Edmonton

Former soccer player and huge fan of Team Mexico Luis Enreique Rangel Garcia moved to Edmonton four months ago.

It’s his first winter in the city and he’s going to the match with his family Tuesday evening.

“We’re excited,” he said. “I’ve never been to a Mexican game… so this is a good opportunity.”

While Garcia personally really likes the snow, he believes it will create tough conditions for the Mexico team.

“I think this weather is difficult weather for Mexico. We’re not used to playing with snow in Mexico. It’s going to be a hard game.”

But he still thinks they can pull off a win.

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Sam Adekugbe grew up in Calgary, and has played pro soccer in Norway, so he knows a few things about having to deal with inclement weather.

When asked about the coldest game he ever played in, his memory went back to Scandinavia.

“Probably, Norway, small town called Tromso, got down to -15,” Adekubge said after the Canadian national team trained indoors Monday at the Scottish Dome on Edmonton’s south side.

“It was cold, but we survived.”

Sam Adekugbe trains with Canada’s national team in Toronto on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Honduras. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Defender Steven Vitoria said the weather won’t affect the team.

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“We grew up in this,” he said. “We joked around during the week, this brings us back to our childhood. We’re excited.

“We’re not going to find any excuses. We’re going to leave it all out there, whether it’s sunny or snowy.”

He said the weather wasn’t a factor Friday, because the fan support for Canada was so strong and the players were able to ride the wave of emotion.

“We didn’t really feel it, we fed off the heat of our fans and we think it will be crucial tomorrow night.”

READ MORE: Canadian men’s soccer team has become a winning band of brothers under John Herdman

Coach John Herdman said he expects nothing less than a war between the two teams; Mexico beat Canada 2-1 at the Gold Cup, but Canada drew the Mexicans 1-1 at Azteca Stadium earlier in the qualifying cycle.

“The pitch is going to be set up the same, it’s a narrow field for both games,” he said. “But the narrow-field conditions, it’s not going to matter.

“It’s going to be an absolute war. It’s what we’re intending to bring. Both teams want to finish up at the top of the group by the end of the year.”

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READ MORE: Alphonso Davies’ return to Edmonton for World Cup qualifiers ‘makes people believe’

The field at Commonwealth is narrow because of the surrounding athletic track. During training at the Scottish Dome Monday, the sidelines were brought in so the team could replicate the stadium conditions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Edmonton Monday morning to make an announcement on the child-care plan, visited with the team during the session.

“I just want you to know how much we are all so excited about what you have achieved, what you are going to continue to achieve and know that we’re really, really, really rooting for you all,” Trudeau told the players.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau visits Canadian men’s soccer team before crucial World Cup qualifier against Mexico'
Trudeau visits Canadian men’s soccer team before crucial World Cup qualifier against Mexico

Trudeau asked the team whether they thought the cold weather and snow would be an advantage against Mexico.

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“They’re not going to like it,” one team member said.

“It’s not like you’ve grown fur. Nobody is going to like it, but you’re a little more used to it?” Trudeau asked.

READ MORE: Avalanche bulletins issued for parts of Rocky Mountains; 15 to 40 cm of snow expected

The players smiled and nodded.

“He reminded us that we’re all in this together as a country, and we all share a common goal, to raise our country’s name as high as we can,” Vitoria said of the meeting with Trudeau.

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— With files from Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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