GUATEMALA CITY — Canada lost 5-1 to two-time defending champion Costa Rica on Wednesday but still advanced for the first time to the knockout round at the CONCACAF Futsal Championship.
Canada (1-1-0) placed second in Group C and will play Group B winner Panama (1-1-0) in Friday's quarterfinal with a berth in the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania in September on the line.
The Canadian men have not qualified for the Futsal World Cup since the inaugural event in 1989 in the Netherlands, where they failed to make it out of the first round after beating Japan and losing to Argentina and Belgium.
The 13-team CONCACAF Championship, which runs through Sunday, will determine the four representatives from North and Central America and the Caribbean at this FIFA Futsal World Cup.
The top two in each of the four groups advance to the quarterfinals with the final four booking their ticket to Lithuania.
Gilberth Garro, scored twice while Jose Guevara, Pablo Rodriguez and goalkeeper Cesar Vargas had singles for Costa Rica (2-0-0).
Veteran Ian Bennett scored for Canada.
Trailing 4-0 after the first half, the Canadians hung tough against the talented Ticos in the final 20 minutes.
The three-time CONCACAF champions lived up to their billing, controlling the game and showing a depth in attack. Still the Canadians, after yielding three early first-half goals, managed to put a check on the Ticos thanks in large part to some fine work by Canada goalkeeper Louis-Philippe Simard.
That was until late in the half when, after a Toronto corner, Vargas scored from distance to increase the lead to 4-0 with Simard pulled for an attacker. Vargas was rock-solid at the other end, stopping a pair of penalty kicks.
Garro and Bennett traded goals in the final 20 minutes.
Canada, under head coach Kyt Selaidopoulos, rallied from 2-0 down to defeat Haiti 4-2 in its opening match Tuesday. It marked just Canada's second win in seven games — and three trips — at the tournament.
Panama hammered Surname 11-1 before losing 3-2 to Mexico. Costa Rica blanked Haiti 7-0 on Monday.
The Ticos, CONCACAF champions in 2000, 2012 and 2016, have appeared at four Futsal World Cups (2000, 2004, 2012 and 2016). Canada, meanwhile, had taken part in two previous CONCACAF championships finishing sixth in 2016 and seventh in 2012.
The 2021 CONCACAF tournament was originally scheduled for last May but was delayed due to the pandemic. French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe withdrew in the interim, reducing the field to 13.
The indoor futsal game is five-a-side with two 20-minute halves. The clock stops whenever the ball goes out of play or there is a break in play. Each team starts with one goalkeeper and four outfield players on the pitch, with unlimited substitutions.
Canada came close to making the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup, denied by a 7-4 loss to Cuba in its final group game at the CONCACAF qualifier. The Canadians lost to Costa Rica 3-2 and beat Curacao 7-4 before falling to Cuba.
Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama and Guatemala represented CONCACAF at the 2016 World Cup.
Brazil has dominated the world futsal scene, winning five of the eight FIFA World Cups. Spain has won twice and finished runner-up to Brazil three times. Argentina is the defending champion.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021
The Canadian Press