Photo: Canada’s Harbir Sidhu looks to dispossess the South African player in a 2016 Junior World Cup match in India on December 10, 2016 (By Yan Huckendubler)
Canada’s Under-21 Men’s National Team came up on the short end of a close battle with South Africa, dropping a 3-1 decision Saturday at the 2016 Junior World Cup in Lucknow, India.
With both teams coming off losses in their first matches of the tournament and only the top two nations from each of the four pools moving on to the quarterfinal round, Saturday’s tilt was essentially a must-win game for each side.
Canada looked to be focused from the openings moments, controlling possession initially, but could not mount any offence.
South Africa made its first foray into the Canadian end in the 3rd minute. The ball made its way behind goalkeeper Iqwinder Gill – who was making his second straight start for Canada – but Jamie Wallace swept it off the goal-line to avoid concession of the game’s first goal.
The South Africans then picked up the game’s first penalty corner in the 5th minute after a Canadian turnover in midfield. A drag flick from Ryan Crowe resulted in a calm and collected glove save from Gill.
After some back and forth play in the middle of the field, another corner in the 17th minute for South Africa resulted in another strong glove hand save from Gill.
Throughout the first half, Canada showed spurts of offensive on the counter-attack and in the 21st minute, forward Rohan Chopra carried the ball into the final third of the field, battling a South African defender all the way into the circle and earning Canada’s first penalty corner of the match.
Defender and co-captain Brandon Pereira stood behind the ball and put a low, hard drag flick under the South African keeper’s stick for the game’s first goal and Canada’s first goal of the tournament.
The lead only lasted for five minutes, however, as the South Africans picked up corners in the 23rd and 26th minutes and converted on the latter when Kyle Lion-Cachet put a flick around Canada’s first runner and between the post-man, Pereira, and goalkeeper, Gill, to tie the game 1-1.
Despite the late first half goal, the Canadians played a strong first half and were positioned for a chance to win the game in the second half.
In the second, it was the Canadians who picked up the first chance to scored when Amrit Sidhu poked a ball past the last South African defender at the centre-line. He and Michael MacKenzie then went on a partial 2-on-0 and MacKenzie just failed to put the ball behind keeper Robert McKinley who charged out to make the save.
It was a chance the Canadians would rue as minutes later, South Africa took the 2-1 lead in the 41st minute on a deflection from Crowe in tight.
After avoiding harm while playing a man-short for five minutes due to a yellow card, Canada went down 3-1 in the 55th minute when Walter Pfaff scored from the baseline.
Canada, knowing it had to at least get a point out of the match, began to throw more players in the attacking end and had many chances to make a game of it.
Jamie Wallace earned a penalty corner in the 62nd minute and took the flick himself, but McKinley was equal to the challenge.
Then, in the 64th minute, nice build-up from Kabir Aujla and Pereira resulted in MacKenzie nearly tapping the ball in that the side of the net.
Canada pressured constantly until the final buzzer, but despite their best efforts, could not equalize.
After the 3-1 loss, Canada now sits in 4th in Pool D, behind India, England, and South Africa, each of whom have 3 points.
Canada faces England in its final pool stage match on December 13th at 10:00am local time (8:30pm Pacific/11:30pm Eastern on December 12th). The game will not have a live stream.
WATCH – CANADA VS SOUTH AFRICA – 2016 JUNIOR WORLD CUP: