Canada’s under-23 side is at the bottom of its group after the first night of men’s soccer at the Pan Am Games in Hamilton.
A tricky Brazilian side outclassed the young team here Sunday night, defeating the hosts 4-1 in their first match.
The Canadians scored their only goal less than 10 minutes into the second half, thanks to standout striker Molham Babouli, but the home nation spent most of the game on their back foot despite the support of a near-sellout crowd at CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium.
Despite the loss, striker Hanson Boakai, who controlled much of Canada’s attack, said the team is taking positives from getting in behind the Brazilian’s defence on multiple occasions.
“This could be one of the best teams in the tournament. What we’re going to learn from it: their movement off the ball was fantastic. We’re going to take that and put it into our game.”
It took the South Americans only seven minutes to get their go-ahead goal.
Brazilian striker Raphael Dodo tapped a shot through Canadian keeper Maxime Crepeau’s leg, a lapse the Greenfield Park, Que. native will surely want back.
Brazil needed more than 30 minutes to double its lead, when a hard shot from striker Romulo Pacheco found the top corner in the 38th minute, but the South Americans looked at ease, and in second gear, for long spells throughout the match.
A third goal from striker Clayton Da Silveira just after halftime sealed the win for Brazil and striker Eric Nascimento added a late header in the 89th minute to up their tally to four. Babouli’s goal was but a dent in their goals against record.
Canada and Brazil had never met in the Pan Am Games before Sunday night.
Both squads fielded young sides as per tournament rules. Like the Olympics, only under-23 teams are welcome in the men’s side of the Pan Ams. The games are preparation for Canada’s Olympic qualifiers, which run from Aug. 1-13 in the United States.
Coach Antonio Floro said Sunday’s loss makes Canada’s upcoming matches against other Group A opponents even more important as they want as much training as they can get before the qualifiers.
“We cannot forget the main objective is our Olympic team. We have to teach the players how to play all the kinds of attack, all the kinds of defence, because today we went to play Brazil and after 20 minutes we had too much difficulty against Brazil.”
The current Canadian squad is hindered by the concurrent Gold Cup tournament, losing eligible players Cyle Larin, Russell Tiebert, Samuel Piette and Quillan Roberts, who were called up to the senior squad for the CONCACAF tournament.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for the Canadians, though: their senior side is ranked 103rd in the world, compared to Brazil’s No. 6 spot.
They looked strong on the fast break, led by Babouli and Louis Beland-Goyette.
Babouli, who is a member of Toronto FC reserve side Toronto FC II, smacked Canada’s only other on-target attempt off the near post in the first half, while Beland-Goyette escaped Brazil’s defence for a breakaway but couldn’t get a shot off.
Canada needs to finish the round robin in the top two to advance.
Earlier Sunday, Panama beat Peru 2-1 after defender Fidel Escobar scored a 90th minute penalty shot. Group B matches between Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay, and Paraguay and Mexico will be played Monday afternoon at CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium.
Canada will next face Panama on Thursday in Hamilton.