SECOND-HALF STRUGGLES LEAD TO ELIMINATION FROM MEDAL CONTENTION
It was a tale of two halves.
The first half saw a daring Canadian attack generate several circle entries, a few grade-A chances, and a beautiful backhand rocket from Mark Pearson. The second half saw an experienced Belgium take control and fill the Canadian net, dashing Canada’s hopes of advancing in the Olympic tournament.
The scoreline read 2-1 at halftime. For a Canadian team ranked 10th in the world taking on second-ranked Belgium, this was a positive result. Pearson’s goal provided a spark when Canada needed it. But, the second half was a completely different story. The Belgian attack came in waves, resulting in chances, goals and penalty corners on repeat. They managed seven markers in the second half finishing the game up with a 9-1 victory. They sit atop the Pool B standings with a 4-0-0 record.
WATCH: TEAM CANADA VS BELGIUM
Pearson, the lone Canadian goal scorer, said Belgium is a team that continues to attack and Canada just couldn’t keep up in the second half. He addressed how deadly they can be if they are given a little extra time and spaces to make their decisions and moves on the ball.
“It’s all about closing your lanes, protecting against the give and go’s. In the first half we had the legs to stay with them and keep them out and fight hard defensively,” Pearson said. “In the second half, they opened us up. They are a hell of a team and they’ll make you pay when they get their chances.”
The Pearson goal tied the game at one in the dying seconds of the quarter. A goal of the tournament candidate, Pearson danced in, showing off his 3D skills and then smashed a patented backhand over Vincent Vanasch’s shoulder into the top corner. He said the team did a solid job generating chances in the first half, but needs to capitalize more.
“We know we have to be ruthless and clinical when we do get opportunities. So yeah, getting that goal in the first helped us and gave us some energy, but at the end of the day, it’s still frustrating and disappointing to come out with this result,” Pearson said.
Canada drops a one-sided affair against world-number 2 Belgium. (Photos/Yan Huckendubler)
Canada has played from behind in every game during these Olympics — something head coach Pasha Gademan said leads the team to stray from their game plan and get sloppy. Especially as the game went on, Team Canada lost their legs and gave up far too many chances.
“It’s especially hard [to play from behind] when you give them all up at once. Gademan said. “In the first quarter, you go down 2-1, that’s not so bad. But then it went so quickly; it’s super difficult to get your head back in the game.”
Gademan said that the difference can be as little as an extra metre here or there and the ball can wind up back in your net.
“It just looked like we were exhausted in the third quarter. In the first half, we were always there to disturb them, to challenge them,” Gademan said. “In the third quarter, we gave them that 1-2 metres extra. When you give a team like Belgium that extra metre…it can end in a result like today.”
Although their hopes of advancing are shot, Team Canada can still finish on a high note as they take on South Africa tomorrow morning. The Red Caribou didn’t win a game at the 2016 Rio Games, so they are looking to place higher by knocking off the South Africans.