PHOTO: Canada’s Scott Tupper celebrates one of his two goals against India at the Rio 2016 Olympics Games at the Olympic Hockey Centre in Rio de Janeiro on August, 12 2016. (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Canada’s men’s field hockey team put together its best performance of the 2016 Olympic Games in its final match, tying India – the world’s fifth ranked team – 2-2 Friday in Brazil.
Canadian captain Scott Tupper scored two goals for the second straight game to lead Canada to the draw to close out its participation in the Rio 2016 Games.
The goals, which were a part of a four-goal second half, were Tupper’s fourth and fifth of the competition, putting him second in tournament scoring after Friday’s match.
With Canada unable to advance to the quarterfinal round, Friday’s game against India was purely for pride.
The Canadians were disappointed not to have picked up points in their first four games and were looking to finish the Olympics on a high note.
And while India controlled possession for long periods to start the match, they were unable to break through a Canadian defence which seemed intent on having its best showing of the Games.
India was able to make its way towards the Canadian goal in the 9th minute, but keeper David Carter easily handled a backhand shot. He then made a confident save on Chandana Thimmaiah in the 13th minute to keep the game scoreless.
The Canadians had a handful of chances to convert in the first quarter, the best of which came in the 14th minute when veteran forward Matthew Guest made his way behind the Indian defence and in alone on goalkeeper Sreejesh Parattu. Guest dribbled in tight and then went to his backhand for the shot, which just went wide.
The game was scoreless through the fist quarter and both teams had equally dangerous opportunities to take the lead in the second.
In the 25th minute, Tupper found Mark Pearson in the Indian circle, where – much like Guest – he made a quick move in close and tried to beat Parattu, but a combination of the Indian keeper and his defenders kept the ball out.
Then, in the 27th minute on an Indian corner, Rupinder Pal Singh fired a high and hard drag flick towards the top corner of the net but Tupper knocked it out of the air and away from goal to keep the game tied nil-nil after the first half.
The number of scoring chances on both ends was an indicator of what was to come in the second half.
India picked up another corner early in the 3rd quarter and while David Carter made the save on the first opportunity, Akashdeep Singh put the rebound in for the first goal of the game.
But the Canadians responded immediately. Off the restart, Sukhi Panesar went into the Indian end and forced a ball into an Indian body to earn a Canadian corner.
That’s when Tupper scored his first of the game on a low drag flick that went through Parattu to tie the game just 45 seconds after India took the lead.
Canada thought it had jumped ahead three minutes later, when a well-built play from the Canadians ended up with the ball in the Indian goal. But the goal was overturned as the ball went in off a Canadian body.
Before the quarter was out, India took advantage of a lapse in the Canadian defence as a long ball was played in to Ramandeep Singh at the side of the Canadian goal, where he was open and deflected it by Carter.
But once again, Canada pushed back immediately.
The Canadians controlled possession to start the fourth quarter and a strong play from Adam Froese, who knocked a ball out of the air and quickly let go of a shot from the top of the circle which hit an Indian body, earning a penalty corner in the 51st minute.
Canada went to Tupper again, who put a shot on goal looking for a rebound, but no Canadian could pick it up the second opportunity.
But Canada kept the pressure on and Froese earned another corner after beating Thimmaiah on a quick move to the outside, forcing him to take the Canadian defender down.
Thimmaiah was given a yellow card and Canada was given a corner.
This time, Tupper put a perfectly placed flick to the right of the Indian keeper for his second of the game and tie things up at two.
India pulled its goalie late in the game, looking for the outright win to improve its placing heading into the quarterfinals, but could not beat Carter, who made a miraculous diving save in the 59th minute on a sharp redirect.
Canada went back the other went towards the empty net, but ran out of time before it was able to get in the circle and attempt a shot.
The game ended in the 2-2 draw, with Canada picking up its first points of the competition against a team ranked ten spots higher in the World Rankings.
The Canadians will likely finish 11th with the Brazilians – the lone team beneath them in the standing – faced with a tough task in their final game, taking on World No. 1 Australia later on Friday.