By Yan Huckendubler, PAHF Media Officer
LONDON, Ontario, Canada - The last day of the Men's Pan American Cup was played at University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, under intermittent heavy rain in a morning but a pleasant sun miraculously back for the Final.
Argentina booked their berth for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, with Canada coming once again one goal short. Chile earned the third step of the podium after a fiercely contested game against Trinidad & Tobago.
Trinidad & Tobago was early on the attack and earned two penalty corners well defended by the Chilean defense. In the next minutes, Felipe Montegu (Chile) and Nicols Wren (T&T) had good shots on goal. The game was wide open and flowed quickly from one end to the other, despite a slow pitch saturated with water from the torrential morning rain.
In the fourteenth minute, Trinidad & Tobago earned another penalty corner cleanly converted by Kwan Browne giving the lead to T&T. Chile reacted promptly led by Felipe Montegu, with Trinidad & Tobago releasing the pressure with long aerial balls and quick counter-attacks.
Chile accelerated the play in the last ten minutes of the period and pushed T&T back on their heels, earning two penalty corners well defended by Francis in the Trinidean goal. They however scored on their third penalty corner, with a straight shot by Felipe Montegu. Chile had a chance to take the lead on the next play, with a decisive circle penetration from Felipe Montegu but Esteban Krains, alone in front of the goalkeeper, could not adjust his shot.
Score at half-time: 1-1. With weather clearing slightly, both teams attacked the second period at full speed, with a penalty corner misplayed by Kwan Browne at one end and another opportunity engineered by Felipe Montegu at the other end, Glen Francis defending well on a confuse goal mouth scramble.
In the forty forth minute, Felipe Montegu penetrated the circle, played through a series of tackles that could have earned him a penalty corner, and unleashed a backhand rocket in the roof of the net that left no chance to the goalkeeper. Trinidad & Tobago had an immediate reaction but couldn't equalize. With twenty minutes to go, Trinidad & Tobago desperate to equalize and Chilean starting to play more defensively, the game got more physical and lost its fluency.
Trinidad & Tobago had most of the play in the final stages of the game, but could not force a clear opportunities, even when Chile was reduced to ten players in the last two minutes and hanging desperately to their lead. Chile won the Bronze Medal after a fiercely contested game that could have gone either way.
The game started in front of a good audience who took advantage of a reprieve in the rain to come and support the home Canadian Team. Both teams played in their traditional colors, light blue and white for Argentina and all red for Canada.
After a short round of observation in midfield, Canada started to push up field led by Rob Short. They penetrated the Argentinean D but couldn't create a dangerous chance. On a run by Ken Pereira on the right, Rob Short received the ball in good position but could not adjust his push. On a quick counter-attack by Almada, Jorge Lombi created havock in the Canadian D and earned a penalty-corner, well saved by Mike Mahood. Argentina maintained the pressure and Lombi opened the score on the next penalty-corner with his signature drag flick high on Mahood's glove side.
Argentina pressured high and Canada had trouble pushing the ball out of defense. Mike Mahood had to make a couple classy saves to protect his goal, and received a precious help from his left post on another drag flick from Lombi. Ken Pereira created some danger with incisive runs on the right wing and engineered a great opportunity to Ranjeev Deol, but his deflection ended just wide.
Argentina started to take control of the game, with a patient game in the back and quick and incisive counter-attacks, complemented of course by their lethal penalty corners. Mike Mahood displayed the extent of his talent and athleticism on a few more saves from various angles, including a superb reflex saves on a shot from close range by Vila.
At the end of the period, Ravi Kahlon intercepted the ball on his 25 and carried it all the way to the opposite D, but couldn't conclude cleanly. On a swift count-attack, Rodrigo Vila overran the Canadian defense on the right and offered a superb chance to Tomas MacCormik who didn't leave any chance to Mike Mahood.
Argentina had the game well in hand at half-time (2-0) while Canada could only manufacture marginal chances.
Canada started the second period knowing that they needed to score quickly to get back in the game, playing with more decisiveness and using Ravi Kahlon higher on the field. On a rush by Rob Short, Mike Lee received the ball one on one with the goalkeeper and earned a penalty corner but, on the third replay, Rob Short's deflection went just over the crossbar.
With the Canadian fans cheering loudly the home team, Canada was passing the ball well on the full length of the field, but Argentina weathered the Canadian pressurre with experience. The second period was played on a high tempo, both teams showing why they are at the top of the rankings in the Americas.
Canada kept pushing and had a few dangerous opportunities with the game coming down to the last 10 minutes, but the Argentinean defense held tight around a solid German Orozco who had an excellent game. Canada was getting desperate and finally scored a good goal by Connor Grimes after a quick give and go with Paul Wettlaufer, setting the stage for an emotional end of game, with Argentina down one player and Mike Mahood replaced by an additional Canadian field player.
The time was stopped multiple times in the last minute of play, with the crowd on its feet and pushing the Canadian team, but Canada couldn't equalize and the Argentineans were relieved to hear the final buzzer.
Kwandwane Browne, from Trinidad & Tobago, was a popular choice as Player of the Tournament, while Mathias Andwandter, from Chile, was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament. The Top Goal scorer was once again Jorge Lombi from Argentina, with 26 goals.
Player of the Tournament: Kwandwane Browne (Trinidad & Tobago)