The four semifinalists have been confirmed after the fifth day of competition. This afternoon Brazil will face Uruguay while Argentina will play against Paraguay tomorrow. All four will fight for three spots for Germany 2017.
The last day of the group phase has determined the semifinals of the Pan American Championship in Buenos Aires. While group B had Argentina and Uruguay deciding the top of the group, but already qualified as the first two teams (they both had three victories out of three), on group A there was still one spot available on the last match day. Brazil had already won all of their matches and the last place was being disputed between Paraguay and United States.
Paraguay, which had made an impressive first half against Brazil last Tuesday, defeated the North Americans by 29-25. A win by more than 5 goals by the coached by Christian Latulippe could’ve given them the chance to finish second onf group A, but despite the effort they couldn’t get close to a win in a match that was quite tight, but always dominated by the Paraguayans.The conducted by Neri Rubén Vera, who last went to a World Championship in 2013 in Serbia, had once again the help from their experienced centre back Marizza Faria and and the efficiency of line player Sabrina Faria, who was top scorer of the match with 9 goals. Right back Kathleen Darling was the top scorer for the United States with seven.
A victory from Puerto Rico over Brazil would’ve made a mess in the group (besides from being a complete shock), so the former World Champions did their homework and won by 40-15. With four clear wins on the group round, the conducted by Sergio Graciano made their way to the semifinals in great style, rotating the squad throughout the entire competition and giving valuable minutes to all of the players.
Larvik’s new addition Tamires Araújo expressed after the match: “We wanted to impose our defence and work hard on the fast breaks and we were able to do that, we started off very aggressively and we finished it in the same way. Against Paraguay we did not start very well defensively but we had enough patience to run from behind on the scoreboard and end up with a win. We’re satisfied with our performances so far, we’re a long team and we’ve had the chance to see everyone on the court”. The line player said that their defence is working fine but they have “be more calm on the attacks and have more patience as the harder matches approach”.
When asked about a possible final against Argentina, the Araújo stressed: “For me it’s indistinct because for us the most important is to qualify for the World Championship and the final. If we make it, whether our rival it’s Argentina or Uruguay we’ll play with the same seriousness. Of course Argentina-Brazil is always a classic, but if we play against Uruguay it will also be a classic for us”.
Uruguay had secured a place among the first two teams on group B after Wednesday’s triumph against Chile while Argentina was also sitting at the top with three victories out of three as well. So the encounter on Thursday night, in a packed stadium, determined the order in which these two teams would end, and therefore which team would avoid Brazil in the semifinal, which was vital to keep on dreaming with a final and a direct qualification for the World Championship.
It was a victory for the Argentinian team who proved that they felt no pressure whatsoever from the fact of being on home soil, despite the fact that they are not used to playing under the ‘surveillance’ of family, friends and fans from the sport. The match started off very tight and tense, the importance of a victory was clear. After the first 10 minutes the score was 4-4 and it was only nearly 4 minutes later that one of the teams were able to score. Argentina settled the 5-4 and from then on they took control of the game. The local team had obtained a 5 goal difference and even though they were unable to score for the last 6 minutes of the match, they went to the locker rooms with a 11-7 on the scoreboard. Special mention to the last Uruguayan goal converted by Iara Grosso with the time stopped at the end of the first half. The left handed put it in the lower left corner of Marisol Carratú’s goal to provoke the applause of everyone on the tribunes.
The second half was clearly dominated by the Argentinians who were able to rotate the squad and kept a safe goal difference throughout the rest of the match. Argentina’s centre back Victoria Crivelli said after the match: “We’ve been waiting for this match for a while and we were very anxious to play it, we watched them play yesterday and when we saw that they were doing things good our anxiety grew. Our goal was to start very intensively in order not to give them any chances to even think of a victory, because if you do so, they just keep on fighting and we could’ve had a more stressful definition, like that of the friendly matches we had last February when we won by one goal only”.
It came a bit as a surprise the fact that the Uruguayans didn’t present such an open defence, like in previous tournaments, but the home team had already studied their rivals: “We were expecting anything. We had seen that their defence had not been so open on these past few games, but still they pressed us a little bit more on the second half. We need to be alert with that kind of defence because Paraguay might do it as well, but we’re taking home all positive things”. Concerning their next rival, the Ferrocarril Oeste playmaker stressed: “We’ll study them more thoroughly, but we already know they have a good centre back that makes very good connections with their line player and they are fast runners, so we’ll study them to get ready”.
Crivelli also mentioned that their heads, inevitably, set on a final match on Sunday, but she confessed there’s something helping them lower the decibels: “Our heads are a little bit on Sunday, but I think this anxiety we have to play every match and to have this connection with the public makes us go down to Earth and to think only on the next match. To be honest I did not expect to have as many people here today, I was expecting full house for Sunday though, but today’s attendance and that of last Tuesday are unbelievable and we’re very thankful”.
The semifinals will be played this afternoon, as well as the 5th to 8th placement matches. The schedule goes as follows (Buenos Aires time, GMT-3):
Chile – United States 12hs (Final score 20-27)
Puerto Rico – Dominican Republic 14hs
Brazil – Uruguay 16hs
Argentina – Uruguay 18hs
All links to the matches can be found here: http://panamhandball.org/pathf/2017/05/16/livestreaming/