Canada concludes South American trip with a draw against Venezuela

Canada’s men’s national team scored a last-minute goal to come away with a 1:1 draw against Venezuela. Substitute Gavin McCallum scored the tying goal in the 92nd minute at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano de Mérida, a first for McCallum in his international debut.

McCallum’s goal came on a header off an Issey Nakajima-Farran free kick just outside the penalty area. The goal erased the 1-0 Venezuela lead that was established near the end of the first half on a goal by Ángel Chourio. The McCallum goal sent 20,000 Venezuela fans home disappointed.

"We fought to the end and I thought we deserved the point," said Nakajima-Farran.

Canada’s starting XI featured Josh Wagenaar in goal, Paul Stalteri at right back, Adam Straith and Richard Hastings at centre back, Mike Klukowski at left back, Issey Nakajima-Farran, Terry Dunfield, Pedro Pacheco, Nik Ledgerwood and Massih Wassey at midfield, and Simeon Jackson up front. Of note, Dunfield made his first appearance with Canada’s national team.

The Venezuela starting XI featured Leonardo Morales in goal, Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Tomas Rincón, Juan Fuenmayor and Grenndy Perozo at defence, Agnel Flores, Francisco Flores, and Giácomo Di Giorgi at midfield, and Nicolas Fedor, Ángel Chourio and Yohandry Orozc up front.

Canada used all six of its substitutions while Venezuela made five substitutions. Coach Hart replaced Wassey for Stephen Ademolu (61st minute), Klukowski for Eddy Sidra (64′), goalkeeper Wagenaar for Haidar Al-Shaïbani (70′), Dunfield for Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault (74′), Pacheco for Gavin McCallum (81′), and Ledgerwood for Gianluca Zavarise (84′). Canada’s late substitutions, of course, made a big difference in the match.

Both teams had a few chances in the opening half, although for the most part the play went back and forth without much danger. Canadian striker Jackson had a wonderful chance in the 39th minute when he was sent through into the penalty area by the Canadian midfield. Jackson, however, hesitated and Venezuelan goalkeeper Leonardo Morales got into position to make the save.

The Jackson opportunity came shortly after Chourio hit the crossbar on a Venezuela rush. On Chourio’s second opportunity in the 44th minute, he made no mistake as he fired a shot from inside the penalty area through the Canadian defence and past the Canadian goalkeeper.

"I felt we controlled the game and we had good speed," said Canadian national head coach Stephen Hart. "There were two fundamental mistakes – the second on which they scored."

In the second half, Canada came out determined and created some opportunities. As the half wore on, the play slowed in Venezuela’s favour. From the 56th to 91st minute, both teams made 11 separate substitutions.

In the final minute, however, Canada won a free kick on a good run down the left side by Sidra. It was on that kick that Nakajima-Farran found McCallum and McCallum found the back of the net.

"We pushed forward very well, but Venezuela was very good on the counter attack," said Hart. "I was happy to see the team respond and get the late goal."

The Canada 1:1 draw concluded a two-match South American trip for the men’s national team. The Canadian staff now returns home while the Canadian players return to their professional clubs.

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