Photos: Yan Huckendubler
By Ali Baggott for Field Hockey Canada
The reigning Olympic champions were in fine form on the final day of the 2019 Pan American Champions bucketing five goals on Canada for a 5-2 victory and a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. For Canada, the silver medal was the second in two days as Canada’s women’s team also came up short yesterday against Argentina.
Canadian drag flickers Scott Tupper and Gordie Johnston each scored for Canada but the scattered offense wasn’t enough against a tough Argentine side that saw Jose Tolini notch two goals, Maico Casella, Lucas Martinez and Martin Ferreiro also get on the board.
A tight opening quarter had few scoring opportunities for either team but the pace was high and the defence was stingy. Although no goals were scored Canada suffered their biggest lost when veteran midfielder and two-time Olympian Mark Pearson was walked off the field in the ninth minute after getting tangled with an Argentina player. He didn’t return. The Canadians didn’t hang their heads for long though.
In the 16th minute, Brenden Bissett brought down an aerial in the Argentina circle and forced the ball towards goal. The ball popped high off Juan Vivaldi’s pads and gave Canada their first penalty corner. Tupper delivered a flick to the top of the net to stun the crowd with the game’s first goal. As champions they are, the Leones charged back in the next minute of play to earn a penalty corner of their own.
Tolini flicked low and David Carter made the save but there were noCanadians there to clear the rebound. Tolini walked in and buried his own rebound to tie the game 1-1.
Not two minutes later a hard ball was sent in to the Canadian circle and caught Tupper on the foot. Argentina showed how dangerous they are on the set piece as Tolini flicked a low shot that rung off the back boards for his 10th goal of the games.
Canada didn’t panic but they also couldn’t find a way past the Argentine defence. Juan Lopez and Pedro Ibarra closed every entry that Jamie Wallace and Keegan Pereira tried on the left side of the circle.
In the 27th minute Canada earned their second penalty corner and a chance to draw level. The ball was miss trapped at the top of the circle and a frantic effort to get the ball in to the circle backfired. Argentina countered with incredible speed and before Canada could turn, Lucas Vila was running into Canada’s circle with options. Vila dished to a wide open Ferreiro who swept the ball up and over a sliding Carter to bring Argentina ahead 3-1.
Argentina seemed to only get better from there, while Canada’s momentum, if any, seemed to halt entirely. Carter was still sharp in the Canadian goal denying a back-hand blast from Agustin Mazzilli in the 38th minute. Maico Casella extended Argentina’s lead in the 40th minute. His diving touch in mid-air went to video referral and the ball changed direction off the stick ever so slightly and Casella was credited with his 10th goal of the tournament.
Up 4-1 Argentina seemed on auto-pilot and showed their superiority through the final quarter. Canada seemed to lose track of the ever-rotating Argentina forwards and in the 53rd minute Juan Lopez blasted a ball to the top of the circle. Martinez shook both Canadian defenders and delivered a forehand rocket to give Argentina the 5-1 go ahead.
Canada’s Johnston added a goal on a penalty corner in the final 30 seconds of the game but it would not be enough to beat the two-time defending Pan American champions. This is Argentina’s 10th Pan American Games gold medal since the inaugural 1967 games. The four other championships not won by Argentina were won by Canada (1983, 1987, 1999 and 2007).
The Canadians will await another opportunity to go to Tokyo in the fall when the Olympic qualifier opponents are announced.