News Matches
Concacaf Gold Cup

Who is Alphonso Davies? Canadian teen makes bold first splash on international stage

04:33 BST 08/07/2017
Alphonso Davies Loic Baal Canada French Guiana Gold Cup
The 16-year-old broke records in his introduction to competitive international football, the latest chapter in a whirlwind ascent

All of the pre-match conversation was about Florent Malouda, the 37-year-old former Chelsea star who wasn't allowed to take the field for French Guiana against Canada in Friday's CONCACAF Gold Cup opener in New Jersey.

After the match, a 4-2 win for the Canadians, all of the talk was about someone much, much younger.

Canada's 16-year-old star makes history

Alphonso Davies, the 16-year-old newly-minted Canadian, scored a pair of goals to lead his country to its first victory at the continental championship in six years. He did so with style, too, nutmegging goalkeeper Donovan Leon on both strikes.

Those familiar with Major League Soccer will have already been aware of Davies, the powerful Vancouver Whitecaps attacker whose brash confidence and composure on the ball belies both his tender age and his reserved off-field persona. But after Friday's performance, many more around the footballing world will have been introduced to the most exciting prospect to come out of the Great White North since Owen Hargreaves.

Unlike the former Manchester United midfielder, however, Davies has emphatically tied his international future to Canada. Perhaps that has something to do with his personal story.

Born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana, Davies moved to Canada when he was five years old, eventually settling with his family in Alberta. His prodigious soccer talents were immediately apparent, and after dominating as a young boy in the Edmonton area youth leagues, Davies joined the Whitecaps academy at 15. It wasn't long before he started to move up the ladder at the Cascadia club, with Davies signing for USL side Whitecaps FC 2 in 2016 (and becoming the youngest player in that league) before joining the MLS club just a few short months later.

All the while, he was also attempting to finalize his Canadian citizenship in order to represent the country that took him and his family in.

The paperwork was completed just last month, and like everything else to do with Davies' life, he embarked on another whirlwind journey, being whisked into Octavio Zambrano's first training camp as head coach the very next day.

His first cap for Canada followed, and Davies had a big hand in a 2-1 friendly win over Curacao.

In the three weeks between that match and the start of the Gold Cup, most of the chatter was centered around how big of a role the youngster would have in the tournament. After all, Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson has elected to bring Davies along slowly, mixing in spot starts with several second-half appearances as the teenager grew accustomed to life in MLS.

Report: French Guyana 2 Canada 4

But Zambrano spoke of Davies as much more than an occasional contributor, even hinting that the youngest player to ever suit up for Canada could start in the regional tournament — Canada's only real games until World Cup qualifying for Qatar 2022 starts up in two years' time. Even so, most wrote it off as Zambrano talking the kid up, giving him a confidence boost before taking the safe route and letting him feature from the bench.

So when the starting lineups were published an hour before Friday's match, with Davies' name included, eyebrows were raised.

It didn't matter though. From his first few touches Davies showed he belonged on the same field with players up to 20 years his senior. 

An early first-half foray showed the youngster's naivety, as he charged down the left flank with a streaking Lucas Cavallini in front of goal. Instead of hitting an early cross to his wide open teammate, Davies elected to take another touch, getting himself closer to goal but also allowing Leon to take away the angle for the easy ball across to Cavallini.

That he was able to stride confidently down the wing to create the opportunity was a positive, but as an exasperated Cavallini gestured, it was apparent that Davies had miscalculated.

It wouldn't happen again.

The next time Davies received the ball in a similar position was in the 60th minute, and this time the youngster powered past his defender and calmly slotted the ball through the legs of the onrushing French Guiana 'keeper. He did it again with his next touch in the final third, deftly stroking an Anthony Jackson-Hamel feed through Leon's legs for the game's final goal.

As he sprinted over to the corner flag and celebrated with his teammates in a manner so enthusiastic it could only come from a teenager, the online world lit up and chatter about the youngest goal scorer in Gold Cup history begun.

Alphonso Davies had arrived on the international scene.