Stingy defense and opportunistic scoring: These are the themes that Canada has shown throughout this World Cup. Terrific goalkeeping and a second-half goal by captain Scott Tupper forces a tie with South Africa leaving Canada in a favourable position heading into their final pool-play game.
Canada weathered the initial South African attack in the first quarter in what has become somewhat of a theme. The same defensive unit led by Tupper and Gordon Johnston that remained steadfast against a Belgian attack earlier this week, stood tall again against South Africa.
South Africa pressured an earned a three first-half penalty corners but Canada’s David Carter rose to the occasion and made three brilliant saves. Canada pressured back at the end of the first half when James Kirkpatrick had a quick chance inside the South African circle.
In the third quarter, Canada attacked with more vigour and pressed for chances. A missed PC and the ensuing green card led to a set of South African penalty corners. Once again Canada stood strong and David Carter continued to shine in the Canadian net.
Carter, the 37-year-old Canadian netminder felt the team didn’t come out of the gate strong enough but held their defensive structure well.
“Obviously we all wanted to come out of this game with a win,” Carter said. “But I thought we protected against their corners well and played overall really great defense.
South Africa broke the deadlock with three minutes left in the third quarter. The goal, off the stick of Nqobile Ntuli seemed to add life to the Canadian attack who responded two minutes later with an earned penalty corner and a subsequent stroke that Tupper buried with no mistake.
With the tournament format the way it is, Carter said every game is so vital to moving on.
“It’s pretty much do or die during every game,” he said. “So when they scored, we knew we had to really press and really try to get that goal back, really try to get at least some points out of this game.”
South Africa, with the net empty applied heavy pressure and earned a penalty corner with only a few minutes remaining. As Canada has done all World Cup long, they protected their net as Matt Sarmento dove to deflect the danger away.
Tupper, the Canadian goal scorer, echoed Carter’s words and added that it’s all about moving on and continuing to perform.
“It was nice to see that when we did go one down, we bought in and get it back to even. We know we have a few things to work on before taking on India in front of a packed stadium,” Tupper said.
The clock ticked out on tonight’s game and Canada walked off the pitch with a positive result. Canada maintains third position in Pool C. A good result against India or a Belgium win over South Africa will likely spell Canada through to the pre-quarterfinals.
Canada will now take on the host-nation, India in their final pool play game. A win would surely push Canada through to the next round. Tupper feels that although India poses a tough challenge, Canada does have a history of playing well against them when it matters most.
“We’ve had success at the last two major tournaments against India,” he said. “Hopefully we can have another really good performance and get a win.”
Canada takes on India in prime-time on Saturday December 8th at Kalinga Stadium. Stay tuned for viewing information and broadcast times.