Sunday, 25 July 2021

Caribou And The Brits

The game may have been played Monday in Tokyo, but it was televised on Sunday long after afternoon tea here in North America. I mention "afternoon tea" because the Canadians were facing Great Britain in the second match for both teams in Pool B action at the Tokyo Olympics, and the Canadians were looking for the upset in this one. Having lost their first match to Germany, Canada could send ripples through the pool with a win over the seventh-ranked British squad who came into the game with a 1-0 record on the strength of a 3-1 win over South Africa. Would the Caribou shock the tournament and dispatch the British in today's game?

Much like the game against Germany, the chances were few for Canada in the opening quarter, but the British were unable to connect on many passes themselves. The British did rattle the framework behind Antoni Kindler with a shot off the crossbar in the first quarter, but that would be the only ball to get by Kindler as Canada and Great Britain closed out the opening fifteen minutes tied 0-0.

The second quarter felt an awful lot like the first quarter where the British controlled the offensive chances, but simply could not convert. Sam Ward again rattle the woodwork with his shot off the post, but Kindler was equal to the task on the other chances including a glorious Liam Ansell that he steered wide with stick. Despite the chances for the British, the Canadian defence and goalkeeping kept this game deadlocked at 0-0 as both teams exited the pitch for halftime.

Just under three minutes into the second half, an extremely long challenge proved fruitless for the British, moving the ball from a penalty corner to the sideline. It didn't matter where the ball was placed, though, as Sam Ward set up Liam Ansell at the penalty dot where Ansell swept a low shot at the goal. Kindler's save attempt yielded just a piece of the ball, but not enough, as Great Britain broke the stalemate and went up 1-0 on Ansell's goal. The 41st minute saw Ward convert a penalty corner with a precision shot, and the British had a 2-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter!

For a moment, it seemed Canada was going to break the goose egg as they were awarded three-straight penalty corners, but nothing came of those in what had to be disappointing for the Canadians. However, Floris van Son made his impact felt at the 51st minute when his flick from the top of the circle found room past British goalkeeper Oliver Payne, and the Canadians had life at 2-1!

As the game wound down, the British showed their skill with some excellent ball control, and that led to a gorgeous passing play that was finished with a Liam Ansell deflection on the goal line into the yawning Canadian cage for his third goal of the tournament that made it a 3-1 game in favour of Great Britain. Canada did pull the goalkeeper to try and generate some late offence, but it was all for naught as the final whistle sounded on the 3-1 Great Britain victory in this game.

With the loss, Canada falls to 0-2 in the tournament while Great Britain improves to 2-0. It is worrisome that Canada still has yet to generate any sustainable offence against two of the better teams in this tournament. Great Britain outshot Canada 15-4 in this game, so, if you're keeping track at home, Canada has been outshot 37-6 by Germany and Great Britain. That simply is not good enough in any tournament to win a medal, so Canada will really need to start finding ways to generate offence if they hope to advance out of the preliminary round.

In other action leading into this game from the men's tournament, Pool A's results saw Australia crush India 7-1, New Zealand outlast Spain by a 4-3 score, and Argentina down Japan by a 2-1 score. The Pool B games saw Netherlands defeat South Africa 5-3, and, in a game that happened directly before the Canada game, it was top-ranked Belgium downing the Germans by a 3-1 score.

In women's action, Pool A saw Ireland down South Africa 2-0 while Germany squeaked by Great Britain 2-1. Pool B on the women's side had China defeat Japan 4-3, Australia down Spain by a 3-1 score, and New Zealand shutout Argentina 3-0.

Canada will play the Netherlands next, and they currently sit with a 1-1 record after a loss to Belgium on the opening day before bouncing back with the win over South Africa. The Netherlands are the third-ranked nation in the FIH rankings, so the Canadians will need a big effort against the Dutch. We did see South Africa take advantage of some sloppy Dutch play in their game, but Canada has yet to score three goals in the entire tournament, let alone one game.

It's a pretty obvious necessity for their game against the Dutch, but the offence has to awaken from its slumber. Being 0-3 in this tournament means it's a tough task to advance, and even if one does advance it's very likely that Pool A's best team awaits them in the crossover. If Canada can pounce on a Netherlands team that hasn't looked entirely solid yet, this could be the break they need!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the pitch!

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