Field Hockey Canada > Confident Canadian men eager to begin home Pan Am Games

If history is any indication, there is a really good chance that Canada and Argentina will meet in the men’s final of the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, which kick off for the Canadian men tonight when they face Brazil (4pm PT/7pm ET).

The last ten men’s field hockey finals at the Pan Am Games have been contested between the two teams, who have pretty well alternated winning the title.

Argentina won in 2011 in Guadalajara, so that would mean it’s Canada’s turn. And despite what is typically said about those who make assumptions, the predication holds weight based on Canada’s performances over the last year.

“From a competition perspective, we know that we’re a lot closer to Argentina than we were four years ago,” says Canadian defender David Jameson, who will is competing in fourth Pan American Games. “Even from two years ago at the Pan Am Cup, we’re further on than that. We actually know we can compete with them.”

The two teams recently met at the World League Semifinal in Argentina, where Canada, ranked fifteenth in the world, on the shoulders of beating seventh ranked New Zealand in a shootout, finished fourth out of ten teams, giving themselves a very good opportunity to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

But when it comes to Olympic qualification, nothing is guaranteed until it’s official and Canada can make it official by winning gold at the Pan Am Games. 

“I don’t think that we carry much from that last tournament other than confidence in how we played,” says Canadian veteran Matthew Guest, who will likely play in his 100th international match during the Pan Am Games. “I think coming into this one the goal hasn’t changed. The goal is to qualify for the Olympics with a gold medal here.” 

The Canadians’ have come a long way in four years.

After holding a 1-0 half-time lead over Argentina in the 2011 Pan Am Games final, Canada ended up losing 3-1, taking silver and missing out on the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The team changed its coaching staff bringing in new director and head coach Anthony Farry and its core group of players lost a wealth of experience with the departure of Rob Short and Ken Pereira.

But despite the disappointment of a Pan Am loss, missing out on the Olympics, and losing key players, there was a silver lining.

“Our whole culture and everything just changed for the better and became more positive,” says Jameson. “We’re just a hard working group that has gotten better and better over the years. Our first result came in Kuantan, Malaysia last year and it’s just gone up and up from there.”

Canada finished second at the Champions Challenge in Kuantan and followed it up this year with the fourth place finish at World League.

In both instances, the Canadians were able to beat higher ranked teams en route to unprecedented finishes in the respective tournaments. It’s that ability that has confidence levels at an all time high for this particular group.

“You always go in playing against teams ranked higher knowing that you’ve got a shot, knowing that you’ve got a chance to win,” adds Guest. “We take a lot of confidence in those results and know we can get those results here.” 

If the sting of losing to Argentina in the 2011 Pan Am final isn’t motivation enough, the Canadians are looking for revenge after Argentina beat Canada twice at World League in Buenos Aires. 

This time, it’s the Canadians who have home turf advantage. It’s something that, while it comes with increased expectation and pressure, would add to the meaning of being able to come full circle.

“I’ve wanted to win this tournament ever since I knew it was here, says Jameson who won gold at the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “Winning at home and getting gold again would be phenomenal.”

Canada opens its Pan Am Games tonight when they face Brazil at 4pm PT/7pm ET. Click here for Canada’s schedule and results and all news related to Canada’s field hockey teams at the Pan Am Games.