Friday, February 04, 2022

El Salvador-Canada

Two days ago I was among the Salvadoran fans supporting their team in their last attempts to qualify for the World Cup as they were facing the team of the moment in CONCACAF, Canada. 

Despite the stadium not being full, the passionate fans created a great atmosphere, but in the first fifteen minutes the atmosphere did not help the home team as Canada dominated with a high pressure, and were only prevented from scoring due to a couple of great saves by the FAS goalkeeper Kevin Carabantes. But slowly the Salvadorans worked themselves into the match, and when it reached halftime the score was a deserved 0-0.

Second half started well for El Salvador who was putting more pressure on the Canadians, although they were missing obvious chances. During one excellent attack Bryan Tamacas was taken down in the Canadian area in what I considered a clear penalty (and after seeing it on TV I still consider it a clear penalty where the Canadian defender never touched the ball, but directly took down the man), but the referee, who had a really bad night, did not call the penalty. An awful decision, and in the next minutes Canada's Atiba Hutchinson scored one of the strangest and luckiest goals I have seen (and in fact in the stadium it was hard to see what happened exactly, and I have had to see it a few times on TV): following a cross a struggle between Eric Zavaleta and Hutchinson made the ball jump to the outside part of near post. Hutchinson fell on the goal-line and the ball fell on his back as he lay down, and jumped a strange curve from a very sharp angle into goal. There was some controversy as the linesman had waved the flag for a possible foul, but the referee correctly called the goal.

Respect for Canada, but that was incredibly lucky; it took some of the air out of the Salvadorans who appeared disorganized, while the Canadians now focused on defending and pulling the rhythm out of the match. That said, in the last minutes El Salvador created two big chances, the latter a spectacular shot that was just saved by Milan Borjan in the Canadian goal.

And as often happens when one is pushing forward in the last minutes, Canada struck back on a counterattack to make it 2-0 in the last seconds of the match (just as they had done when defeating the USA 2-0 on Sunday): a very sloppy throw-in by Enrico Dueñas was caught by the Lille striker Jonathan David who rushed towards goal and was ice-cold to score. 

Jonathan David confirms that he is a striker on fire!

The match thus ended in disappointment for El Salvador, who had played a good match, but just hadn't the luck or the referee to pull a tie, which would have been much more deserved. They can still mathematically qualify for the World Cup but it appears extremely unlikely: they need to win every match, while both Panama and Costa Rica must lose all their remaining matches. But both against the USA (1-0 loss), Honduras (0-2 win) and this match the team has shown good qualities, and they should look forward to keep improving.

In the meantime I can say that I saw the strongest team in CONCACAF. Despite the luck Canada are a strong and organised side with excellent players, and they come through three important victories in this round of qualifying (USA, Honduras and El Salvador), remain the only undefeated team, and they are almost sure to qualify to Qatar (they only need one victory in their last three matches).

Congratulations to Canada.

Salvadoran football fans

El Salvador-Canada World Cup Qualifier

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