After the Opening Ceremony full with glitter and emotions in front of a packed audience in the gigantic Maracana Stadium, the hockey competition of the Pan American Games started at the Deodoro Sports Complex, north of Rio de Janeiro. Argentina, title holder and favorite, opened with an easy win over host Brazil, while Chile, Cuba and the USA also recorded precious wins in the tight race for a semi-final spot.
Uruguay started the game well, monopolizing the ball during the first ten minutes, but could not generate any real opportunity. Chile progressively increased their control on the play and finally opened the scoring in the 22nd minute by Daniela Caram, who had the honor to score the first goal of the 2007 Pan American Games.
Chile was two goals up at half-time, and then steadily increased its lead to end up 6-0, with both Daniela Infante and Carolina Garcia scoring two goals.
Argentina – Brazil: 21 - 0
Argentina gave a brilliant display of hockey, without forcing their talent. Brazil held the fort for about 5 minutes, drawing huge cheers from the large local partisan crowd each time they stopped an Argentinean wave. Nevertheless, they faded quickly and “Las Leonas” started to penetrate their inexperienced defense with ease, scoring 10 goals before the half and another 11 in the second half.
Alejandra Gulla scored 5 goals to celebrate her 150th Cap, Luciana Aymar scored 4 goals and 9 other Argentinean players found the backboard.
Canada – Cuba: 1 - 3
In pool A, Canada, Cuba and the Netherlands Antilles being on paper fairly close to each other, each game was promising to be close and crucial. In the first half, Canada and Cuba shared the control of the game, but Canada clearly created more opportunities, including multiple series of penalty corners. Unfortunately, they could not convert their set pieces, allowing Cuba to stay in the game.
Both teams were making errors, missing passes, loosing balls in their runs, but nobody could take advantage of the multiple turnovers.
Cuba finally scored in the 50th minute by Aglaisys Serrano on a penalty corner. She immediately took advantage of the Canadians protesting an umpiring decision to add an opportunistic field goal. Soon after, Yadira Puentes scored a sumptuous penalty corner goal, and, with three goals in 5 minutes, the Cubans had sealed the match. Canada pulled back a goal in the final minutes by Andrea Rushton, finally on target on penalty-corner, but Cuba narrowly missed the reward of forth goal when the ball was deemed to have crossed the line a split second after the final horn.
USA – Netherlands Antilles: 4 - 1
The other game of pool A between the USA and the Netherlands Antilles was played in front of large contingents of athletes from other sports and immediately proved to be of a higher caliber, both teams displaying excellent individual techniques and structured games. If was nevertheless the Netherlands Antilles that went first on the scoreboard, when Floortje Joosten stunned the American supporters with a free hit deflection from close range.
The Americans players kept their composure and progressively impose their game, pushing the Dutch deeper and deeper in defense. They were rewarded when Carrie Lingo scored a goal rather similar to their opponent’s one, leveling the score before half time.
It didn’t take USA long to take the lead in the second half, with a well combined and executed penalty corner that left no chance to the goal-keeper. As the game progressed, the Americans’ fitness and experience allowed them to better control the play, but they could not score and were relieved when the umpires disallowed a Dutch goal after a goal mouth scramble.
In it is only in the last 10 minutes that Carrie Lingo went around the goal-keeper and score in the empty net for a personal hat-trick, making a decisive break that sealed the result of what was undoubtedly the best game of this first day of hockey competition in Rio.
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