Canada semi-final bound after heart-stopping penalty shootout win over Venezuela in Copa América QF

Final Score: Venezuela 1-1 Canada (3-4 on pens.)
Goalscorers: Rondon 64′; Shaffelburg 13′
Copa América — Quarter-Final

The Canadian dream continues.

Canada’s men’s national team breached further into uncharted territory on Friday night, advancing to the semi-finals at Copa América by defeating Venezuela in a penalty shootout, after an exhilarating quarter-final clash that had ended 1-1 in 90 minutes.

A severe test of nerve, the Canadians passed their test, but not without an abundance of heart-wrenching moments as Les Rouges made history, and will now get another opportunity to test themselves against Lionel Messi and Argentina next week.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Canada coach Jesse Marsch opted not to change his XI from the team that drew 0-0 with Chile, as Jacob Shaffelburg and Richie Laryea got starts on the wings with Jonathan Osorio in place of Ismaël Koné in midfield.

It was nearly a dream start for Venezuela, who saw captain Solomon Rondón in on goal — perhaps offside just moments after kickoff, but Maxime Crépeau saved the shot from distance and pounced on it before Yeferson Soteldo could score the rebound.

Canada brought their own country to its feet in the 12th minute, as Jonathan David played a ball through a high Venezuelan backline to put Cyle Larin on a break, but he ran out of runway and couldn’t get it over the goalkeeper, though Larin’s second attempt also came close.

Seconds later, though, Canadians were out of their seats. David carried the ball into the area and held it up, absorbing pressure from Yordan Osorio before setting it into the path of Shaffelburg, who needed just one touch to bury it and stun the pro-Venezuelan crowd with an early Canadian lead.

The first half was certainly not for the faint of heart, going from end to end with the frenetic energy of a shaken soda can. Canada came inches from a second goal on several occasions, including one that Larin’s outstretched foot was achingly close to redirecting a Laryea pass into an open goal. Venezuela, however, had their own fair share; Crépeau was called upon a few times, but his defenders did the lion’s share of the work steering their opponents out of dangerous areas.

Alistair Johnston led the way for Canada with five tackles in the first half and eight total defensive actions, winning six out of seven ground duels. The Celtic fullback went head-to-head with the shifty winger Soteldo and largely got the better of him, as the ex-Toronto FC attacker won just one of his eight duels in the first 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Canadian centre-backs did their job as well cleaning up Venezuela’s speculative balls into the box, as Moïse Bombito and Derek Cornelius combined for eight clearances.

(Photo courtesy of Concacaf)

Canada’s approach to the game seemed to be an eagerness to create the disjointed, chaotic pace; all of their best moments came in transition as they invited Venezuela to a track meet which they felt they could win. David and Larin played off each other to stretch the pitch, David often dropping a little to create gaps for Larin to run toward before trying to find him with through balls, while Laryea and Shaffelburg ran at the Venezuelan fullbacks to pin them back on the counter.

Like other encounters at this tournament though, it was physical. The standard for a foul was fairly high as a number of Canadian — Shaffelburg in particular — felt the brunt of a few crunching shoulder challenges, but having learned from prior matches, Canada weren’t overly fazed by refereeing, instead looking to get on with things as quickly as possible. In the first half, that is.

However, the chaos did not go entirely in Canada’s favour. Shortly after the hour mark, the Canadians were shaken as Larin tried to take a throw-in quickly, but had the ball batted from his hands by goalkeeper Rafael Romo. In the ensuing confusion, Venezuela cleared the ball way up the pitch to Rondón, who brought it down and noticed Crépeau high out of his goal. The veteran striker lobbed it from near the halfway line, over the Canadian keeper and just under the crossbar for the equalizer.

The Venezuelans had adjusted well in the second half; they swapped Soteldo to play on the right side, trying to get him in behind Alphonso Davies. He still struggled to deliver into the box the way he wanted, but he did seem to find more space with the marking less tight to him on that flank.

Canada continued to live for the direct balls; Tani Oluwaseyi, brought into the game for a spark in the last 20 minutes, brought down a long pass in transition well enough to turn to goal, but blasted a shot just over the crossbar. Again, it was Oluwaseyi who nearly put Canada back in front moments later with a volleyed flick, but again it wasn’t quite on target.

In spite of all the fury of the dying minutes, though, we proceeded directly to penalties after four minutes of stoppage time.

Again, not a viewing experience for the faint of heart; the penalty shootout itself had perhaps more ups and downs than the match itself, all packaged into the space of about 15 minutes.

The sides went blow-for-blow; when Venezuela scored, Canada answered. When Yangel Herrera missed, so too did Liam Millar — as did Stephen Eustáquio when Jefferson Savarino had his effort saved. At last, though — as the shootout proceeded past the initial five and into sudden death — Crépeau got his hands on Wilker Ángel’s attempt.

Ismaël Koné — he who had been dropped from the starting lineup for poor performances, and had been frustrated at this tournament to date — stepped up for the sixth penalty with the game at his feet, and he made no mistake. Low, to the keeper’s right as he dove the other way, and Canada won it.

On to New York, on to Argentina. On to another clash with Lionel Messi, and a semi-final with an opportunity to go where a Concacaf side has gone just twice before.

(Photo courtesy of Concacaf)

Box Score


Venezuela: Romo; Aramburu, Ferraresi, Y. Osorio (Ángel 90+2′), Navarro; Martínez (Rincón 90+2′), Herrera; Bello (Lacava 84′), Cásseres Jr. (Cádiz 60′), Soteldo (Savarino 84′); Rondón

Canada: Crépeau; Johnston, Bombito, Cornelius, Davies; Shaffelburg (Millar 62′), Osorio (Koné 81′), Eustáquio, Laryea (Ahmed 72′); David, Larin (Oluwaseyi 72′)


13′ — Jacob Shaffelburg (Canada)
64′ — Salomón Rondón (Venezuela)


35′ — Yellow: Jacob Shaffelburg (Canada)
50′ — Yellow: Derek Cornelius (Canada)
90+3′ — Yellow: Jon Aramburu (Venezuela)

Penalty Shootout

  1. Venezuela: Salomón Rondón (GOAL)
    Canada: Jonathan David (GOAL)
  2. Venezuela: Yangel Herrera (MISS)
    Canada: Liam Millar (MISS)
  3. Venezuela: Tomás Rincón (GOAL)
    Canada: Moïse Bombito (GOAL)
  4. Venezuela: Jefferson Savarino (MISS)
    Canada: Stephen Eustáquio (MISS)
  5. Venezuela: Jhonder Cádiz (GOAL)
    Canada: Alphonso Davies (GOAL)
  6. Venezuela: Wilker Ángel (MISS)
    Canada: Ismaël Koné (GOAL) Player of the Match

Maxime Crépeau, Canada

This section was written and re-written several times, but this nod surely couldn’t go elsewhere. Crépeau made a mistake on the Venezuela goal — his first of the tournament, arguably. But he made up for it. The native of Longueuil, Québec became Canada’s Dibu Martínez, making two brilliant saves in the shootout to send them onward.

What’s Next?

Canada. Argentina. The Copa América semi-final. Les Rouges return to the pitch on Tuesday, July 9 at MetLife Stadium near New York City to take on Lionel Messi for a spot in the final (8 p.m. ET).