Photos: Yan Huckendubler
By: Ali Baggott for Field Hockey Canada
It was evident from the opening whistle that both Argentina and Canada’s defence were going to be very stingy. Argentina was able to capitalize early as Maria Granatto weaved her way in to the Canadian circle earning a penalty corner. Piti d’Elia had the crowd, that included four-time Olympian and eight-time FIH Player of the Year Luciana Aymar, on their feet when she blasted her shot in to the bottom right corner. From there the game was played between the 25 yard lines with Argentina edging in possession. D’Elia had one more penalty corner chance before the end of the quarter but Danielle Hennig was there to deny the deflection opportunity to Victoria Granatto.
Canada had their first chance at goal on a penalty corner but Sara McManus’ sweep shot was turned away before it got to Belen Succi in the Argentina goal. Moments later Carla Rebecchi looked dangerous down the left side of the field and her pass across the goal allowed Argentina another chance from the top of the arc. This time, Rebecchi took aim but she wasn’t able to pick up the ball for the flick. Noel Barrionuevo grabbed the loose ball and threw a shot on goal but Kaitlyn Williams made the glove save. Canada’s nerves started to show through the later moments in the half as passes weren’t connecting but they were tight in the back field to keep the game just 1-0 for Argentina by half time.
Rebecchi created her own opportunity in the 34th minute as she picked up a ball near the sideline that the teams seemed to pause on. Rebecchi weaved her way to the top of the circle and floated the ball towards goal. McManus went to grab the ball in front of Williams but the ball popped back to Rebecchi who flipped the ball in to the goal on her back hand for a 2-0 Argentina lead.
Agustina Albertario had the next best chance for Argentina as she turned Karli Johansen and Hennig and released a shot on her back hand. The ball ricocheted off Williams’ pads and out. Canada’s composure paid off in the final minutes of the third quarter as both Rebecchi and Granatto served green card suspensions for late tackles. Canada was unable to capitalize with the extra person.
In the 54th minute, Canada finally broke through on a run by Stephanie Norlander whose back-hand attempt to team mate Maddie Secco was disrupted by Succi resulted in a penalty corner. A well-executed option from Hennig back to Hannah Haughn, who pulled the ball out, fell short as Succi slid across to make the save.
Argentina had another penalty corner in the final minutes of the game and this time Noel Barrionuevo showed the depth of the Leonas’ penalty corner unit. Barrionuevo, the highest-capped player at the tournament (350), beat Williams glove side just above the backboard to secure the third and final goal for Argentina.
According to Hennig, Canada will focus on the things they did well and prepare their best for the Uruguay game on Friday. “No matter who we are playing, we’re looking to play our best. We’ve been trying to play a high-speed game. I think today we came up short on some areas but also had positives to go forward into the tournament,” Hennig said. “It’s a trademark of Canadian hockey to be gritty and resilient.”
With the 3-0 victory Argentina lock up top spot in Pool A with just winless Cuba left to play. Canada will need to dig into some of that grit and resilience when they face Uruguay for the second spot in the pool on Friday.