Saturday, July 13, 2024

Copa America debutants Canada edge out Venezuela on penalties

“I’m so happy for everyone who is supporting us.’’

• July 6, 2024
Copa America (credit: daily post)
Copa America (credit: daily post)

Canada claimed a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Venezuela on Friday to reach the Copa America semi-finals for the first time after an absorbing contest finished 1-1 at the AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.

With the teams all square after five attempts each in the shootout, Wilker Angel had his spot-kick saved by Maxime Crepeau and Ismael Kone buried the winning penalty to send Canada through.

“Emotions are running high, I’m so happy for everyone who is supporting us,” Crepeau, who made two saves in the shootout, told Fox Sports.

“It’s a lot of work and now we have the fruit of our hard work. This is amazing to be in the semi-finals of Copa America. I think everybody needs to realise this country and its footballers deserve respect.”

Canada, playing in their first Copa America, will face Argentina in New Jersey on Tuesday for a chance to play in the July 14 final.

The semi-final was a rematch of the tournament’s opener, in which the defending champions Argentina claimed a 2-0 win.

Canada, who scored just one goal across their three group stage matches, began the match with uncharacteristic urgency.

Their pressure paid off in the 13th minute as Jacob Shaffelburg steered home a Jonathan David cross.

After scoring, Shaffelburg held up the jersey of teammate Tajon Buchanan, who suffered a broken leg in training this week.

Jesse Marsch’s side wasted several chances to extend their lead in the first half, with Shaffelburg testing goalkeeper Rafael Romo from the edge of the area.

David sent an effort wide of the post after finding himself one-on-one.

Venezuela pressed for a goal and had more possession but were largely limited to speculative crosses and shots from range.

All-time leading goalscorer Salomon Rondon twice drew saves from Crepeau.

Canada’s Cyle Larin fired over the bar from close range in the 52nd minute.

Two minutes later, a rebound fell at the feet of Venezuela’s Jose Martinez in the penalty area at the other end, but his effort also went high.

Venezuela finally found the equaliser in the 64th minute through Rondon, who spotted Canada’s Crepeau off his line and produced an audacious lob that sailed over the scrambling goalkeeper into the empty net.

It was the former Everton and Newcastle United striker’s 44th goal for Venezuela.

Canada responded well to the equaliser and substitute Liam Millar had an effort from a tight angle saved in the 67th minute before Tani Oluwaseyi sent two shots over the crossbar in the span of four minutes.

But neither side was able to find the winner in regulation time.

Venezuela’s exit comes after their perfect group stage campaign, in which they won all three matches.

Their performance at the Copa America bodes well for manager Fernando Batista’s primary aim of earning qualification for a first-ever World Cup.

“This is a long process,” Batista said, through an interpreter.

“We have a huge dream that we’re going for, all Venezuelans want to qualify for the World Cup. And the Copa America gave us a possibility of strengthening our squad.”

After the first six qualifying matches, Venezuela sit fourth in the race for six automatic berths from CONMEBOL for the 2026 World Cup.

(Reut

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