At the Men’s Pan American Cup in Santiago, Chile, Canada struggled to take the best over the USA and earn an automatic berth for the 2010 World Cup in India. Argentina salvaged some pride by winning the Bronze Medal over Chile.
1st-2nd place – Canada vs. USA: 2 - 1 (half-time: 0-1 – full time: 1-1)
Very few observers would have predicted before the semi-finals that both Canada and USA would pull major upsets against Argentina and Chile, and then meet in the Final for the Gold Medal of this Pan American Cup and a berth in the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi.
Canada was the logical favorite, a position that they don’t like. On the other side, the USA , totally unexpected at this level and with nothing to lose, started the game at high speed and forced a Canadian defensive error, promptly exploited by Patrick HARRIS to open the scoring within two minutes of play! Canada immediately reacted and though that they had tied the game on a penalty-corner, but the goal was ruled out by the umpire. They had another massive opportunity when Connor GRIMES attracted the whole defense to one side of the circle, but his cross rolling in front of the empty goal was missed by two diving Canadians.
Canada had most of the ball control but were consistently pushed back by a composed and very tightly regrouped American defense. Canada had another golden opportunity to come back on a penalty-stroke; American goal-keeper Thomas SHERIDAN went the wrong way but was saved by his left post. He had to rely on luck a few minutes later with 3 Canadians left alone in front of him, but, luck on one side or lack of realism on the other, the score didn’t evolve and the Canadian started to become desperate to close the gap before half-time. It didn’t happen and the break came with the Americans ahead by one early goal.
Canada pushed forward from the start of the second period but were again deficient in their finishing. The Americans on the other end forced a penalty-corner on a rare incursion in the Canadian camp and earned a penalty-stroke of their own. They were nevertheless denied to make the break by a superb glove save by David CARTER in the Canadian goal. CARTER was called again in action shortly after to stop an American high forward arriving alone in front of him, then on a series of three penalty-corners. As was the case against Argentina, rookie goal-keeper David CARTER kept his team in a game, but the Canadian forwards could not solve the problem of a much disciplined American defense.
With time passing, Canada were exactly in the shoes of Chile in semi-final, forced to score quickly to stay in the game, while the USA could use long aerial balls to stretch the Canadian defense and try and find their high forwards in ambush. The Canadians were nevertheless rewarded of their relentless efforts by a penalty-corner goal by Scott TUPPER in the 61st minute.
The game totally opened up in the last minute of play, both teams wanting to force a decision before overtime. But the match had to go into overtime, with Golden Goal rule in effect.
Once again, it was down to a roll of the dice. But Canada had been there before, at the Pan American Games in Rio and in semi-final against Argentina, and they didn’t miss their first opportunity: on a penalty-corner, Scott TUPPER’s flick was saved but veteran Paul WETLAUFER was on hand to collect the rebound and shoot it high in the roof of the net, sending his teammates and all the Canadian fans in seventh heaven, and on their way to India for the 2010 World Cup.
3rd-4th place – Argentina vs. Chile: 4 - 0 (half-time: 1-0)
The Bronze medal match was played in front of a subdued attendance, very far from the warm popular support for the home team since the beginning of the competition. Both teams were obviously disheartened to play in this game, when they were most certainly expecting to be in the final. The pace of play initially suffered from this state of mind, with both teams missing passes and opportunities.
Argentina drew first blood with a goal on penalty-corner by Lucas VILA and the game suddenly found its pace, flowing back and forth in entertaining manner, but with nobody taking clear control. Argentina was missing the imposing presence of Pedro IBARRA in front (suspended after the semi-final against Canada) and were far less dominant than in the early stage of the competition. Chile was doing a good job keeping the Argentinean attackers out of the circle and were well backed by Mathias ANWANDTER in goal, so half time was reached with a meager one-goal lead for Argentina.
The crowd came to life when Chile had an opportunity at the beginning of the second period, but the Chileans were surprised by a swift counter-attack that found Rodrigo VILA in the circle. He didn’t miss the chance to increase the score and Argentina suddenly breathed easier with a two-goal cushion. Their relief was short-lived when Lucas ARGENTO received a yellow card, giving some to the Chilean team and crowd. Nevertheless, with time ticking down and fatigue settling in, Chile could not close the gap and Argentina added two more goals.
Chile had a late penalty-stroke to pad the gap but could not convert it, so Argentina cruised to a Bronze Medal that certainly didn’t satisfy their ambition at the start of this competition.
5th-6th place – Trinidad & Tobago vs. Mexico: 5 - 3 (half-time: 0-3)
Trinidad & Tobago seemed to take the upper hand in the early stage of the match, building some solid chances but wasted them by carelessness. As was the case in their previous games, the Mexicans showed some great resilience in defense and weathered the initial storm. They then proceeded to push forward and scored two goals in quick succession by Roberto GARCIA then Francisco AGUILAR.
With Kwan BROWNE somewhat absent of the game, the Trinidadians seemed to have trouble getting organized and missed a few penalty-corners. At the other end, the Mexicans did not waste any chance and scored another goal by Francisco AGUILAR to establish a strong 3-goal lead at half-time!
After no doubt a strong halt-time talk, Trinidad & Tobago immediately rushed to the offense in second period and didn’t waste any time to level the game, scoring three penalty-corners by Kwan BROWNE in six minutes! Wren NICHOLAS added a forth one in the 51st minute and the game suddenly had a different momentum. The second period was an entertaining affair flowing back and forth and chances at both ends, but Trinidad & Tobago stayed on top, even adding a fifth goal by Wayne LEGERTON, to earn the fifth place in the competition.
7th-8th place – Brazil vs. Uruguay: 3 - 1 (half-time: 2-1)
This match, played early in the morning between two enthusiastic teams, was balanced and entertaining. Brazil opened the score on penalty-stroke by Afonso FRANCISCO and promptly double their tally by Igor FIGUTI on field goal. Uruguay reacted well and controlled the end of the period. They were rewarded by a goal on penalty-corner by Maximiliano TIXE, their first of the competition, celebrated in style!
Play became untidy in second period and a few yellow cards needed to be handed out. Uruguay kept pushing and had a golden opportunity to tie the game on penalty-stroke but it was shot directly on Daniel TATARA in the Brazilian goal. This was the wake-up call the Brazilians needed and they became more entrepreneurial, building some dangerous attacks and finally scoring their third goal by Luis Felipe REUS after a decisive individual effort.
This concludes the 2009 Pan American Cup in Santiago, adding ??? to the list of countries qualified for the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi.
Final Standings: 1) Canada 2) USA 3) Argentina 4) Chile 5) Trinidad & Tobago 6) Mexico 7) Brazil 8) Uruguay
Player of the Tournament: Rob SHORT, Canada
Goalkeeper of the Tournament: David CARTER, Canada
Top Scorer: Kwan BROWNE, Trinidad & Tobago, 11 goals
Fair Play: Mexico
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