World hockey champions Argentina were given a run for their money by Canada, the second best team in the women’s Pan-American Games tournament based on performance, before winning 7-3 on Friday.
It was a match of two halves in which Canada stunned the Las Leonas (the lionesses) with a sixth-minute opening goal from Thea Culley.
Argentina then scored four goals in 10 minutes but Canada hit back twice through Hannah Lynn Haughn and defender Katherine Gillis in fine attacking plays at the end of the half to hold the favourites to a narrow 4-3 lead at the interval.
Having adjusted defensive issues, captain Luciana Aymar’s team scored three more goals in the second half for a comfortable victory that might have been by a greater margin but for some brave goalkeeping from Azelia Liu.
Argentina’s coach Carlos Retegui gave the Canadians full credit for their three goals and smiled about the fact that they were all from field plays with none from short corners.
“We had set ourselves the target of not conceding from corners,” he told reporters. “But, well, (the ball) did go in in plays. I think we need to be a bit more alert with 50-50 balls in the area.
Retegui said the ball could have fallen to either team in those tight goalmouth situations and all Argentina’s rivals were going to play them that way with fast counter-attacks.
“Lots of teams are going to play us like that, get into the area and they’re going to knock it in... we must do a bit more zonal marking to be able to intercept those crosses,” he added.
“The goals (conceded) were merit of the rival team who came into the area, created goal chances and were good at taking them.
“We need to correct those mistakes but I think the team did good things with the ball,” Retegui said after his team had mostly kept Canada on the back foot.
Argentina, who had crushed Trinidad & Tobago 11-0 in their first match, equalised through Soledad Garcia.
Then Aymar, the world’s top-ranked player, scored two trademark goals following brilliant dribbling runs that have earned her comparisons from her compatriots with soccer ace Diego Maradona.
Garcia made it 4-1 in the 25th minute before Canada’s two fine breakaway goals in the last five minutes of the first half.
Argentina then pulled away with two goals from short corners by specialist Noel Barrionuevo after 41 and 53 minutes and a final strike from Carla Rebecchi at the end of a move that Retegui called brilliant.
“The seventh goal deserves to be framed... It was a combination of three -- Lu (Aymar), Sole (Garcia) and Rebecchi -- that will stick in the mind. The team played very well at times,” Retegui said.
“We’re turning our minds to Barbados on Sunday and then the semi-final which surely be with Chile. The United States beat Chile (in Pool B) so they are our most likely opponents,” he added, confident of taking the points against the Barbadians.
Argentina are looking to win the single Olympic berth on offer at the tournament.