Canada survives penalty shootout against Venezuela to make surprise Copa América semifinals

Canada continued its surprising debut run at the Copa América, defeating Venezuela 4-3 in a penalty shootout to make the semifinals of the competition for the first time ever.

As the teams stepped up to take their spot-kicks, the shootout ended 3-3 after five attempts each. With sweet victory or damaging defeat on the line with potentially one kick, Wilker Ángel had his attempt saved by Canada keeper Maxime Crépeau on the sixth attempt and Ismaël Koné buried the winner to send an elated Canucks squad through.

“Emotions are running high, I’m so happy for everyone who is supporting us,” Crépeau told Canada’s TSN. “It’s a lot of work and now we have the fruit of our hard work.

“This is amazing to be in the semifinals of Copa América. I think everybody needs to realize this country and its footballers deserve respect.”

Jacob Shaffelburg opened the scoring on the night for Canada in the 13th minute, brilliantly finishing off a pass at the near post from forward Jonathan David, who stormed towards goal on the right past Venezuela defender Yordan Osorio off a throw-in.

The goal sent the Canada squad wild with head coach Jesse Marsch pumping his fists into the air multiple times before being mobbed by the bench, while Shaffelburg held aloft a No. 17 shirt bearing the name of teammate Tajon Buchanan, who broke his tibia in training earlier in the week.

Sensing the opportunity at hand presented by a quarterfinal, both teams continued to push throughout the first half with chances aplenty for both the Vinotinto and the Canadians.

Venezuela forward Salomón Rondón scored a wondergoal to equalize. - Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images
Venezuela forward Salomón Rondón scored a wondergoal to equalize. - Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

However, it was the North American side which enjoyed the best opportunities. First, in the 26th minute, Alphonso Davies began a counterattack with a brilliant through-ball to Shaffelburg who set up David in the middle of the pitch, but the Lille forward sent his shot wide with only the keeper to beat.

Then in the 31st, a loose ball in the area fell to Richie Laryea, whose pass across the goal somehow eluded an unmarked Cyle Larin on the far post.

Canada was made to rue those spurned opportunities as Venezuela’s all-time leading scorer Salomón Rondón scored the equalizer in amazing fashion. Defender Jon Aramburu cleared a Canada throw in to the middle of the pitch and Rondón muscled his way to the ball first and then lofted a shot from over 40 yards after seeing Crépeau off his line.

The resultant wondergoal, which sparked jubilant scenes from the Venezuela faithful, was a just reward for the team’s efforts and the great contest for those in attendance.

Despite Canada’s best efforts to earn the winner in regulation – the Copa América features no extra-time with shootouts after 90 minutes until the final – the match ended with dreaded penalties and a deflated Venezuela.

What awaits now for Canada is a match-up with Lionel Messi and defending champion Argentina in the semifinals – a rematch of the opening game of this edition of the Copa América, which La Albiceleste won 2-0 – on Tuesday night in New Jersey.

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