Feature photo: Michael Petrasso celebrates his goal
In its bid to book a men’s Olympic football spot for Rio 2016, the Canadian men won an important group match on Saturday beating Panama 3-1.
The win evened Canada’s record to one win and a loss in its Olympic qualifying tournament after losing 3-1 to the United States in the opener.
An eventful five minute stretch after the half hour mark saw Canada take what looked to be a stranglehold in the match. Two Canadian goals – by Michael Petrasso (30th minute) and Skylar Thomas (35) – sandwiched a red card to Carlos Small of Panama, giving Canada a 2-0 lead and an early man advantage.
Nonetheless, the Panamanians gave Canada a fright, making it 2-1 with a goal from Edgar Barcenas in the 61st minute. Panama thought it had an equalizer a little later, only to have an offside position call back the goal. It was then a 74th minute strike by Ben Fisk that returned Canada the two-goal breathing room for the last quarter hour.
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The United States is poised to win the group after a 6-1 victory over Cuba giving the Americans full six points from two matches, Canada trails with three. Panama and Cuba each have a point from their opening match draw. Canada meets Cuba on Tuesday, where a win will guarantee them a place in the semifinals of the eight team tournament. A semifinal win would guarantee Canada an Olympic spot in Rio.
Canadian men haven’t played in Olympic football competition since Los Angeles 1984, when the United States automatically qualified as host, while Canada and Costa Rica were the other two countries from the CONCACAF region that encompasses North, Central Americas and the Caribbean.