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Historical performance of Copa America holders

Historical performance of Copa America holders

An early goal from Canada. Long-range chip for Venezuela to equalize. A leave-it-all-on-the-pitch battle through 90 minutes. A laser. And a calm, cool and collected finish.

The Canadian national team showed something Friday that is very familiar in North America: grit. It’s an intangible historically seen from the US men’s national team. But with the Americans bouncing from the tournament in the group stage, it was Canada who filled the void.

When found in nature, few things are as dazzling as perfect symmetry. Unfortunately, few things in the sport of soccer are less natural than a penalty shootout. A game often decided by moments of transition is instead turned into a series of stand-alone events.

Despite this, Venezuela and Canada treated us to an oddly symmetrical shootout. Each team’s first kicker made their shot. Their second members both missed the target. The third kicker was back on target, before the fourth were unfortunately to have their on-frame attempts saved by the goalkeeper. As the fifth kickers found the upper corner, it was a balance that even Wes Anderson would admire.

Of course, all bets are off once the players who aren’t among a team’s first five choices are forced to step into the spot. Both teams opted for a late-game substitute to take their sixth option — a rare chance for each coach to directly impact the game mid-stride. While Wilker Angel had his shot saved by a redeemed Crépeau, Ismaël Koné slotted his way home to send Canada to a Copa América semifinal.

Months ago, Canada looked at risk of losing all the momentum harnessed in that magical 2022 World Cup cycle. The team didn’t have a head coach, and the players were frustrated at the stagnation. Now, Marsch has evoked not just the dogged determination that characterized the John Herdman era, but more consistent chance creation and a more defined team shape that could, in time, yield a more dependable threat to contend with.