December 10, 2009
The Canadian men’s national field hockey team defeated Argentina 3-2 Thursday afternoon in Salta, Argentina. It was Canada’s third and final pool game of the 2009 International Hockey Federation (FIH) Champions Challenge after losses to Pakistan and South Africa earlier in the week.
With Argentina already through to the semi-finals, the match was not of the outmost importance, but a game between the two Pan American rivals is always hotly contested and this one was no exception. The first chance was for Phil WRIGHT deflecting a ball towards goal from close range but Joaquin GONZALEZ ROTHBERG was ready in the Argentinean goal. Both teams were circulating the ball well in midfield but were avoiding committing and there were no clear chances in the first twenty minutes of play.
Tempo progressively increased, with some swift attacks on both sides. The Canadian were much more focused on their game than against South Africa and, under the stewardship of Rob SHORT, pushed hard in the final part of the period, but Argentina absorbed the pressure and the break was reached goalless.
Canada defended well the first penalty-corner of the match early in the second period and had two good chances at the other end for Connor GRIMES before finally forcing their first penalty-corner, well converted by Scott TUPPER in the 50th minute. This triggered a strong reaction from Argentina, vocally pushed by the local crowd, and they earned a series of penalty-corners. Dave CARTER saved superbly the first one but Pedro IBARRA made no mistake on the second one to tie the score.
The intensity of the debate went up a few notches in the last fifteen minutes of play and the umpires had to show cards to cool down the tempers. Connor GRIMES worked hard at the top of the circle to earn another penalty-corner, this time scored by Phil WRIGHT after a combination. Canada then survived a series of four penalty-corners but were finally overwhelmed, giving a chance to Pedro IBARRA to tie the game with one minute to go.
The match was not over yet! Canada rushed back in action, swarming the Argentinean circle and forcing a penalty-corner on the buzzer! It was converted by Wayne FERNANDES and the Canadians once again managed to beat their arch-rivals, jumping ahead of South Africa in the standings of Pool B.
The Champions Challenge is an international field hockey tournament, played every two years, featuring the teams ranked seventh to twelfth in the world, the host nation, and the last place finisher of the elite-level Champions Trophy tournament.
Final Round-Robin Standings:
Pool A: 1) India 7 pts 2) New Zealand 5 pts 3) Belgium 3 pts 4) China 1 pt
Pool B: 1) Argentina 6 pts (+5) 2) Pakistan 6 pts (+2) 3) Canada 3 pts (-3) 4) South Africa 3 pts (-4)