PHOTO: Mark Pearson of Canada and Henry Weir of England battle for possesion during the quarter final match between England and Canada on day seven of the Hero Hockey World League Semi-Final at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on June 22, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
Canada’s men’s field hockey team went up 2-0 in the first quarter, before England tied and eventually won by a score of 4-2 in Thursday’s quarterfinal match at the 2017 World League Semi-Final in London.
“It was a tough game, I think our guys worked hard,” says Canadian interim head coach Paul Bundy. “We kept the game plan where we could. They’re a good side and they took their opportunities when they came.”
When it comes to the World League Semi-Final quarterfinals, Canada’s men’s field hockey team is not averse to dramatics.
In Thursday’s match against World No. 7 and tournament host England, Canada’s men – who upset No. 7 ranked New Zealand in the 2015 quarterfinal match – looked like they were going to produce another upset for the ages after going ahead early much to the surprise of the pro-England crowd at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
John Smythe put Canada on the board first in the 9th minute when he smashed home a rebound, after England goalkeeper George Pinner made a save off Keegan Pereira, who made an impressive run into the circle before putting a shot off the keeper’s shoulder.
England had a chance to get on the board in the 10th minute but Canadian netminder David Carter made a calm foot save on Mark Gleghorne.
Canada then picked up its first corner of the game in the 12th minute and doubled its lead when Gordon Johnston scored his third goal of the tournament on a drag flick that beat the English post-man.
It was a start to the game that not even Canada could have expected. But what happened next was even more surprising.
In the 13th minute, a ball played from well outside the Canadian circle took a deflection off a Canadian stick, high into the air and made its way towards the Canadian goal.
On the other end was Carter waiting for it to come down, and an onrushing Barry Middleton who leaped with his stick high in the air and seemingly got a slight touch on the ball before it hit Carter and went in.
The umpires went to review and ruled there was a touch from the England player and therefore the goal should count.
But Bundy and Canada saw it from a different perspective.
“It should be dangerous no matter if it’s an aerial or not,” says the Canadian coach. “I think the umpires have made an error. They’ve given me the nod…and we have to live with it.”
From that point, the game changed.
England was given a shot of energy, while Canada weas drained of some. And before the first half came to an end, England tallied the equalizing goal on a deflection from Gleghorne in the 24th minute.
In the second half, the English kept coming and scored two more.
While Canada held the slight edge in possession in the third quarter, England had more chances and the eventual winner came in the 38th minute when David Greenfield picked the ball out of the air after a Carter save and batted it in the Canadian goal.
The fourth and final goal came in the 57th minute when Carter, who was in top form all game, made two saves on an England penalty corner before Sam Ward knocked in the rebound with a backhand.
Canada pulled the keeper in favour of a kicking back but was not able to find any more goals.
The Canadians will now play off for the 5th-8th spots throughout the remainder of the competition.
However, with fifth spot in London being given a spot at the 2018 World Cup, there is still a lot to play for.
Canada, currently ranked 11th in the world, faces 18th ranked China on Saturday (1:30am PT/4:30am ET, live on CBC Sports).
The winner of that match will play either India or Pakistan, who both also lost in Thursday’s quarterfinal matches, in the 5th place match on Sunday.