CONCACAF: Canada gets past Venezuela on PKs, reaches Copa semis

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Even after finishing above regional powers Mexico and the United States in CONCACAF qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, the Canadian men’s national team has struggled to earn regional and global notoriety.

Perhaps Canada’s Friday night achievement will help change that.

Ismael Kone converted the decisive spot kick to take Canada through to the Copa America semifinals on penalties following a 1-1 draw against Venezuela in Arlington, Texas.

Kone sealed a 4-3 win after six attempts per team, with Maxime Crepeau having saved two Venezuela tries while a third missed the target.

In their first-ever Copa America appearance, the Canadians have now earned a rematch with Group A foes and defending champion Argentina on Tuesday in East Rutherford, N.J. The United States and Mexico were both eliminated in the group stage.

“I think everybody needs to realize the respect that this country deserves and these footballers deserve,” Crepeau said. “OK. Everybody says, ‘Oh, these Canadians …’ Yeah, well these Canadians are in the (semifinals).”

Argentina won the sides’ previous meeting 2-0 in the tournament opener.

Jacob Shaffelburg scored Canada’s lone goal, just the team’s second of the tournament, in the 13th minute. Canada ultimately prevailed despite missing several chances to add to its advantage in just its sixth match under new manager Jesse Marsch.

“Emotions are running high, adrenaline is running high,” Crepeau said. “I’m so happy for everybody supporting us, everybody back home in Canada. It’s a lot of work, and now we have the fruit of our work.”

Salomon Rondon scored a brilliantly improvised goal from long distance to pull Venezuela level midway through the second half.

However, Venezuela’s all-time leading scorer will have to wait to add to his new career total of 44, as the Vinotinto were eliminated one step shy of what would’ve been only their second all-time Copa America semifinal appearance.

The early exit comes after Venezuela produced a perfect group stage and despite not losing a single match in regulation. While it’s a bitter way to exit a competition, it bodes well for manager Fernando Batista’s primary aim of qualifying Venezuela for its first-ever World Cup.

After the first six qualifying matches of 18 total, Venezuela sits fourth in the race for six automatic berths from CONMEBOL for 2026, with play to resume in September.

“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.”

Shaffelburg put Canada in front early on an attack that began on a throw-in from the right.

Alistair Johnston took it and quickly found Jonathan David in a one-on-one scenario, and David drove into the penalty area before spotting Shaffelburg with a low cross toward the near post.

Shaffelburg met the service, and with a first-touch finish, smashed the ball between Venezuela goalkeeper Rafael Romo and his near left post. As Shaffelburg celebrated, he held aloft the No. 17 jersey of teammate Tajon Buchanan, who sustained a tournament-ending broken tibia in training this week.

Canada had numerous chances to add to the lead.

Shaffelburg and Cyle Larin both missed good looks. However, the biggest opportunity lost fell to David, who ran onto Shaffelburg’s cross during yet another dangerous counter and, with only Romo to beat, sent his effort well wide of the right post in the 26th minute.

Rondon’s 64th-minute leveler started when Jon Aramburu cleared the remnants of a long Canada throw-in from near his own box toward the center circle.

As the ball fell to the ground, Rondon outmuscled Moise Bombito to get position to strike it. Then he lobbed a half-volley off the bounce over Crepeau, who was standing beyond the edge of his own penalty area, before it fell inside the 6-yard box and bounced over the line into the roof of the net.

–Field Level Media

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