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Canada edged by reigning champion Costa Rica in CONCACAF futsal quarterfinal

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Defending champion Costa Rica held on to edge Canada 3-2 in quarterfinal play Wednesday at the CONCACAF Futsal Championship, ending the Canadian men's hope of reaching the FIFA Futsal World Cup.
Yassine Saad and teammates celebrate a Canada goal against reigning champion Costa Rica in quarterfinal play at the CONCACAF Futsal Championship at Polideportivo Alexis Arguello stadium in Managua, Nicaragua on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - CONCACAF

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Defending champion Costa Rica held on to edge Canada 3-2 in quarterfinal play Wednesday at the CONCACAF Futsal Championship, ending the Canadian men's hope of reaching the FIFA Futsal World Cup.

The four semifinalists at the 12-team CONCACAF tournament qualify for this fall's Futsal World Cup in Uzbekistan.

The Canadians cut the lead to 3-2 on a goal by Montacer El Harchali in the second half and pressed for an equalizer.

They had their chances.

Sebastian Lopez came close with some six minutes remaining but his shot, from a feed off a free kick, hit a Costa Rican defender. And with under three minutes remaining, Costa Rican goalkeeper Cesar Vargas kicked out a foot to deny El Harchali.

Canada had Daniel Chamale sent off with 91 seconds remaining for a second yellow card when he pushed a Costa Rican player as he tried to get the ball back in play. 

Vargas stopped Lopez's spot kick with a minute remaining. Canada pulled its 'keeper with time running but failed to score.

The quarterfinal showing matched Canada's best-ever result in four appearances at the 12-team CONCACAF championship.

Costa Rica, in search of its fourth straight CONCACAF title and fifth overall, will play either the Dominican Republic or Cuba in Thursday's semifinal. The other quarterfinals Wednesday saw Panama play the U.S. and Guatemala face Mexico.

The Canadians have not qualified for the Futsal World Cup since the inaugural competition in 1989, when they failed to advance after going 1-2-0 in the group stage.

Futsal is a five-a-side indoor game played in two 20-minute halves. Like hockey, teams can make changes on the fly.

Yassine Saad and El Harchali scored for Canada, which opened the scoring but trailed 3-1 at the half at Polideportivo Alexis Arguello.

Minor Cabalceta, Milinto Tijerino and Gilberth Vindas scored for Costa Rica.

The Canadians were without star attacker Loïc Kwemi, who led the tournament with six goals after the group stage. He was suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

Costa Rica pressed early but Canada went ahead on one of its first attacks. Raheem Rose's shot went under Vargas, the ball slowly spinning towards goal with Saad applying the finish in the fifth minute.

Costa Rica tied it three minutes later with Cabalceta on the Canadian goal's doorstep, deflecting a shot past 36-year-old goalkeeper John Smits. Soon after, Tijerino capped off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play to knock home Costa Rica's second goal.

Chamale was yellow-carded with seven minutes remaining in the first half for sending Daniel Gomez flying with a shoulder block as they battled for a ball.

Vindas added to the Costa Rica lead with less than four minutes remaining in the half, fighting off a Canadian defender before slotting a low left-footed shot home.

El Harchali cut the lead to 3-2 nine minutes into the second half with a pretty goal, dribbling past a defender before beating the goalie.

Canada, coached by Kyt Selaidopoulos, beat Nicaragua 6-3 in its final group B match Monday to advance to the knockout rounds along with the United States as the two best third-place finishers in the group stage. Canada opened with a 5-5 draw with Cuba before losing 7-3 to Panama.

Costa Rica won Group A defeating Haiti (8-3), Suriname (3-1) and Mexico (4-2).

The Canada squad featured seven players from Sporting Montreal FC and another two from 9 de Octubre FC Toronto, which won 5-3 when the two sides met in Calgary on April 2023 in the Canadian Futsal Championship.

The Canadians were making their fourth appearance at the CONCACAF championship, having also competed in 2012, 2016 and 2021. Canada failed to advance out of the group stage in 2012 and 2016, winning just one of six games over the two tournaments,

Canada also made it to the quarterfinals of the 2021 CONCACAF Championship, losing a penalty shootout 4-3 to Panama in the quarterfinals after the game finished knotted at 1-1.

The U.S. (1996 and 2004) and Guatemala (2008) are the only other teams to have claimed the CONCACAF futsal crown.

Portugal is the reigning FIFA futsal champion. Brazil has won the title five times and Spain twice. Argentina won in 2016 and was runner-up in 2021.

Argentina, Brazil, France, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine and Venezuela have already qualified for the 24-team FIFA Futsal World Cup, joining host Uzbekistan.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2024

The Canadian Press