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Canada makes history, advances to quarterfinals in first Copa America appearance

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It was a nervy, tense, and very physical game. And it may not have been the prettiest of performances.

But the Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team held on to secure a crucial 0-0 draw against Chile in their final 2024 Copa America group stage match to reach the quarterfinals in their first-ever appearance at the competition. 

“It took a lot of hard work,” admitted Canada captain Alphonso Davies after the match in a broadcast interview. “First time being in this competition is not easy. There’s a lot of good teams in this competition, a lot of good players. We stuck to our plan and we played well.

“We had to show our fight, we had to show our teeth at times, but overall we did well.”

In addition to drawing with Chile Saturday, Canada lost to Argentina and recorded their first-ever win at a major international tournament with a 1-0 win over Peru, who finished in fourth in the group.

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Argentina topped the group, winning all three of its matches. Inter Milan forward Lauturo Martinez scored four of Argentina’s five goals in the group stage and leads the Golden Boot race.

And two-time Copa America winners Chile finished in third, failing to advance to the knockout round for the first time since 2004. Chile was held scoreless at the tournament for the first time since 1917.

Crepeau comes up big in group stage

Goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was arguably the standout player for Canada making 14 huge saves in three games – including four vs Chile – to help Canada record back-to-back clean sheets against Peru and Chile following their opening loss to Argentina. Canada’s entire defense has been excellent the entire tournament, we saw again tonight just how resilient they are.

Canada started the match strong, knowing they’d need a win or at least a draw to qualify. The intensity was high as both teams tried to control possession and generate scoring chances to take an important lead. 

Just like the match against Peru, the game turned on its head following a red card. Chile defender Gabriel Suazo pulled down Canada forward Richie Laryea who was through on goal after winning the race to a loose ball. It was an obvious foul, which earned Suazo his second yellow card inside half-hour which resulted in a red. Canada was up a man in the 27th minute and would play a significant portion of the game with the man advantage. 

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Canada played well immediately following the red card; they controlled possession, dictated the pace of the game, and consistently played on the front foot in Chile’s half, creating numerous quality scoring chances. 

Arguably, Canada’s best chance of the half came in the 37th minute when Jonathan David chipped a ball over the outstretched arms of Chile goalkeeper Gabriel Arias, however, his shot just trickled outside of the far post. 

Canada dominated most of the major statistical categories at halftime. Possession was ever so slightly in Chile’s favour at 52-48 percent, however, Canada created the more dangerous scoring chances, handily won the expected goals battle, and outshot Chile 6-2 (2-1 on target). Canada created three big chances to Chile’s one and had four shots from inside the box to one from Chile.

Chile gets physical in second half, searching for goal

In the second half, it seemed like Chile tried to get extremely physical with Canada in an effort to instigate the Canadians into committing a foul that would get a player sent off to even the score. 

Despite being down a man, Chile pressed forward knowing they would need to beat Canada to have any chance at qualifying for the quarterfinals after Argentina went 1-0 up over Peru in the 47th minute.

Chile had six shots (three on target) in the second half compared to three shots (one on target) for Canada. Canada conceded several free kicks and set pieces which resulted in a handful of quality scoring chances for Chile.

Canada and Chile draw 0-0 in 2024 Copa America action in Orlando Saturday, June 29, 2024. Photo: Canada Soccer

As the second half went on and it became certain Argentina would beat Peru, Canada’s players knew a draw against Chile would secure qualification. As a result, despite being a man-up, Canada played a very defensive-minded game, sitting back in a low block to absorb pressure instead of playing free-flowing attacking soccer to find the winner. It appeared as though Canada remained conservative to avoid making a critical mistake that would’ve got them eliminated. That explains why Chile played so much on the front foot in the second half.

The last 15 minutes were nervy, but Canada’s strong defense – which has three clean sheets in the last five matches, including two at the Copa America – held on to secure the victory. Crepeau was forced to make a handful of critical saves and mid-air ball-claims to deny Chile any chance of finding a winner.

In the second minute of stoppage time, just over 15 minutes after coming on, Tani Oluwaseyi thought he scored the winner to send his country to the quarters after burying a cross from Tajon Buchanan into the back of the net but was deemed to be offside in the build-up.

Canada held on to secure the draw, but given the immense quality of attacking players Canada has, only being able to score one goal in three group-stage matches is incredibly concerning. Canada recorded 24 shots (seven on target) in the group stage but only capitalized on one chance. Canada has been incredibly wasteful with the chances they create. 

Canada will have to improve its final action and be more clinical in the 18-yard box and the final third if they hope to have any success in the knockout round.

Canada will play the first-place team in Group B, which will be one of Venezuela, Ecuador, or 

Mexico. Mexico plays Ecuador and Venezuela plays Jamaica on June 30 at 8:00 p.m. EST. 

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About Author

Adamo Marinelli is a multimedia freelance journalist who specializes in sports reporting. His writing, editing, and multimedia work has appeared in Total Soccer News, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun, The Hockey News, The Canadian Baseball Network, 49 Sports, Ottawa Sports Pages, Capital Current, 613 Sports, and The Charlatan.

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