Argentina will return to their ninth-straight Pan American Games final after beating Chile 3-1 in an intense South American semifinal battle. Julieta Jankunas’ 60th minute strike was the only point of relief through the entire match that saw Argentina go unsuccessful on all 11 penalty corners.
Denise Krimmerman was the lone goal scorer for Chile on a day that also marked the 250th international match for Chile midfielder Carolina Garcia.
Outside of an early goal for Argentina the opening half was played to a stalemate. Carla Rebecchi blasted home a loose ball after a quick free hit taken by Jankunas to lift Argentina 1-0 in the third minute. Argentina had three-straight penalty corner chances in the sixth minute but the Chileans were able to disrupt the play before the ball reached Claudia Schuler. A variation from Piti d’Elia to Rebecchi was denied by Constanza Palma and then Chile started to come in to their own.
In the second quarter Chile thought they earned a penalty corner in the 17th minute but a video referral requested by Argentina dictated otherwise. Today’s semifinal matches mark the first time the video referral has been used in a Pan American Hockey Federation event.
Chile was moving the ball well through the back but struggling to get through the crowd of blue that guarded the circle. Argentina had their share of chances but Schuler was in fine form. Agustina Albertarrio had been quiet for most of the opening two quarters but in the 27th minute she made a dangerous baseline run and then popped the ball back to the top of the circle. Micaela Retegui batted the ball out of the air towards goal and the reflexes of Schuler were put on display.
Both teams pushed for that elusive next goal as the crowds traded singing songs for their teams. Argentina had three penalty corners through the third quarter but they again could not capitalize. Rebecchi’s drag flick was turned away by the stick of Shchuler in the 39th minute. Argentina seemed antsy and Rosario Luchetti was sent off with a green card, followed by Eugenia Trinchinetti with a yellow. In that suspension time Camila Caram nearly delivered to Maria Maldonado at the far post of the Argentina goal but the ball whizzed off the end line.
The Leonas had yet another penalty corner chance, their ninth of the game but the flick from Noel Barrionuevo was dangerously high into Chile’s Sofia Walbaum. Argentina finally broke the Chilean defence down when Jankunas stole the ball off Caram and beat Schuler with a low back hand to make it 2-0 Argentina.
Unlike their pool-play game against USA when they crumbled after a goal was scored, Chile rose to the occasion in front of a packed stands. Krimmerman knocked in a bouncing ball from Manuela Urroz in the 45th minute to bring Chile back within one.
Chile left every last ounce of their energy and courage on the field but it was shattered in the 60th minute when Jankunas received a quick free hit and expertly finished under the cross bar from a tight angle. The Leonas piled on Jankunas to celebrate the relief that only came seconds before the final whistle.
Argentina’s 3-1 victory secures them a spot in their ninth-straight gold-medal game. The Leonas are still on the hunt for their first gold at these games since 2007.