Canada wins penalty shootout against Venezuela, will face Argentina in Copa America semi-final

One American player is headed to the Copa America semifinals, but he doesn't play for the U.S. men's national team. He's the coach of Canada.

In one of the greatest matches of the tournament so far, Canada and Venezuela battled it out for 90 minutes and penalties to advance to the Copa America, but Jesse Marsch's Canadian side eventually emerged victorious.

Canada scored first in the first half through 'Maritime Messi' Jakob Schaufelberg but experienced Venezuela captain Salomon Rondon took advantage of goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau standing outside the 18-yard box to equalise in the 64th minute with a long-range shot.

The two sides took shots at each other throughout the match, resulting in penalties, with Canada winning thanks to Ismael Koné's late strike. The prize? A trip to New Jersey on Tuesday for a semifinal rematch against defending champion Argentina, which looked set to prevail in a penalty kick shootout.

Josh Klok, Melanie Enziadey and Jeff Rueter tell you how it's done…

How did Canada win this?

An early goal from Canada. A long-range chip for the equaliser from Venezuela. A battle of leaving everything on the pitch for 90 minutes. A laser. And a cool, calm and composed finish.

The Canadian national team displayed something that is all too familiar in North America on Friday: tenacity. It's an intangible quality historically seen from the U.S. men's national team. But after the U.S. team was eliminated from the tournament in the group stage, it was Canada that filled the void.

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Canada beat Venezuela in a penalty shootout to advance to the Copa America semi-finals (Sam Hode/Getty Images)

When found in nature, few things are as dazzling as perfect symmetry. Unfortunately, few things in a game of football are less natural than a penalty shootout. A game that is often decided by transition moments instead turns into a series of stand-alone events.

Despite this, Venezuela and Canada treated us to an oddly symmetrical shootout. Each team's first kicker got his shot off. Their second members both missed the target. The third kicker was on target again, before the fourth was unfortunate to have his on-frame effort saved by the goalkeeper. As the fifth kicker found the top corner, it was a balance even Wes Anderson would admire.

Of course, when players who are not among the team's first five choices are forced to step into the spot, all bets are off. Both teams chose to take their sixth option late in the game – a rare chance for each coach to have a direct impact midway through the game. Wilker Angel's shot was saved by Crepeau, while Ismael Koné smashed home a shot to send Canada into the Copa America semifinals.

Just a few months ago, Canada seemed in danger of losing all the momentum it had gained in the magic circle of the 2022 World Cup. The team had no head coach, and the players were frustrated by the stagnation. Now, Marsch has displayed not only the determination that characterized the John Herdman era, but also more consistent chance creation and a more defined team shape that, over time, could pose a more credible threat to compete.

jeff rueter

Who stood up for Canada?

As expected, the player of the moment that mattered the most for Canada was patrolling their left end. But it wasn’t Alphonso Davies.

Marsch has opted to deploy the 23-year-old face of the program at left back, the same role he has played for years since moving to Bayern Munich. Not only does this take the pressure off Davis – but it also brings the program’s best players (i.e., wide attackers) into the lineup to provide a more proactive approach.

Very few things have been easy in Shaffelberg's career. Affectionately known as the 'Maritime Messi', the man was born in Nova Scotia and later came through Toronto FC's academy. While most clubs enjoy having a homegrown offensive option and want to retain them, Toronto's commitment to spending heavily in offensive roles left Shaffelberg expendable – sold to Nashville SC within MLS's Eastern Conference.

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His impressive form for an otherwise struggling Nashville side helped earn him a spot on the tournament roster. Similarly, he also scored a crucial goal in Copa America qualifying against Trinidad and Tobago, showing that a player known for his energy had the ability to finish off big games. It came in handy again on Friday, as Schaufelberg was the only Canadian to take advantage of multiple chances in the first half.

Schaufelberg operates in a sweet spot for Marsch's still nascent system. Right-sided defenders still fear Davis' every involvement more than Schaufelberg, while back-line anchors Jonathan David and Cyle will stay central to neutralize Larin, instead focusing on the smooth mullet in the halfspace. A superb first-touch finish was a just reward for one of North America's hardest-working players.

jeff rueter

How did Venezuela get parity?

Venezuela came out in the second half knowing they needed to be more aggressive in their attack if they wanted a chance to beat a strong Canadian team, known for their backline. Yeferson Soteldo and Jose Martinez dominated the flanks for Venezuela, constantly applying pressure while penetrating the Canadian defensive end.

But in the 64th minute, Venezuela captain Rondon gave his team a much-needed reprieve. After Crepeau was cleared off the line, Rondon took full advantage of a long punt forward and from long range lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper's head before bouncing into the back of an open net, causing most of the Venezuelan crowd to stand up and applaud. La Vinotinto was back in the game, and their historic run continued.


Rondon scored the equaliser for Venezuela (Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Venezuela kept the momentum going, dominating their third attack, but like the rest of this match, it was a battle of equals between two countries with everything to prove. As the game clock ran down, a frantic Fernando Batista yelled instructions to his players as Canada slowly regained their composure.

La Vinotinto's fairytale run has come to an end as her country's dream of winning its first Copa America title has been dashed. The country's journey in the tournament has been historic, bringing joy to a nation that has suffered so much in recent years.

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Baseball is Venezuela's national sport – but the 2024 Copa America shows why that could change

Venezuela and Ecuador are the only CONMEBOL countries yet to win South America's grand prize. For a country not known for its football, this is a promising milestone, which will now look to achieve qualification for the World Cup for the first time.

Melanie Enziadei

What happened to Tajon Buchanan and how did Canada honour him?

In a training session on Tuesday, Canada suffered a setback that could derail many teams: star winger Tajon Buchanan, Canada's best player at the 2022 World Cup and a new signing for Inter Milan, broke the tibia bone in his leg. Canada cancelled the session after the incident as Buchanan was taken to hospital.

As the severity of the injury became known and it became clear that Buchanan would be out not only for the rest of the tournament but also for four to six months, the mood in Canada changed. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, the Canadian team clearly showed solidarity with their teammate.

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Jakob Schaufelberg celebrates scoring his team's first goal, honoring Tajon Buchanan (Charlie Triballeau/Getty Images)

They visited him in the hospital after surgery. They gathered outside the team hotel to greet him with thunderous applause. And when Schaffelberg scored Canada's first goal, the soccer world realized just how important he was to the team. Schaffelberg ran to the Canada bench and picked up Buchanan's jersey in front of 51,080 spectators.

There were questions about how Canada would perform without a quality offensive player like Buchanan. But the intangible emotions his departure stirs up seem to be motivating them.

Josh Cloke

What does this result mean for Canada?

For years, this Canadian team has been a promising one. Their players were young, but extremely talented. They played in Europe and were able to achieve greatness outside the field. Victories in World Cup qualifying over Mexico and the United States raised hopes, but in every important tournament game, knockout round or group stage, Canada faltered. They never learned how to manage the moment.

Still, against a heavily favored Venezuelan crowd and the team that won their group, Canada has now secured an important win.

Winning a knockout round game in a major tournament shows that this core is capable of putting itself in the next echelon of teams. They controlled emotions, locked down the game defensively and showed their quality when needed. Even though Venezuela didn't make the most of their chances, Canada didn't beat themselves either.

With this win, Canada has, quite easily, become the kind of team it has long aspired to be.

Josh Cloke

What's next for Canada?

Argentina vs. Canada, MetLife Stadium, New Jersey. Tuesday July 9, 8 p.m. ET.

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(Top photo: Getty Images)

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