Canada loses 1-0 to Colombia in Pan Am Games women's soccer semifinal

HAMILTON — Canada will not defend its Pan American Games women's soccer title after losing 1-0 to Colombia in Wednesday's semifinals at CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium.

The Canadians will meet Mexico on Friday for the bronze medal while Colombia takes on Brazil Saturday night for gold.

Colombia, playing in front of a Hamilton crowd that at times seemed loudly pro-Colombian, has never won a Pan Am women's soccer medal of any colour. That will change on Saturday.

Brazil defeated Mexico 4-2 in Wednesday's earlier semifinal.

There were scoring chances squandered and great saves made on both sides, but it was Colombia that took a 1-0 lead into the half when it took advantage of a defensive giveaway and hit some nifty short passes in the box to beat the Canadian defence and set up Diana Ospina in the 29th minute.

"They had a few chances, we had a few chances. They were able to capitalize off of one and we weren't," said 20-year-old midfielder Ashley Lawrence from Caledon, Ont. — one of just four Canadian players who were on the World Cup roster.

Colombia is not a squad to be taken lightly at this tournament, bringing essentially the same group that upset the world No. 3 team France in World Cup round-robin action this summer before bowing out 2-0 to the eventual champions from the United States in the Round of 16.

"Obviously, against a team like Colombia you have to be a little bit careful because games are won and lost in transition," said 17-year-old Jessie Fleming from London, Ont. "I think they caught us on their goal. But I'm all for taking risks. We were just lacking a little bit of quality tonight."

Colombia is currently No. 25 in FIFA women's rankings. And they looked the more experienced and physically aggressive team for much of the first half against the young Canadians, who had six teenagers in the starting lineup.

Still, Canada dominated the play in the second half, setting up several scoring chances and ultimately outshooting the Colombians 8-3 on goal and controlling the ball 52 per cent of the time by the end of the game. It appeared the Colombians were barely holding on and were handed two yellow cards in the final minutes.

"That whole second half we had them under the gun," said Fleming. "We just didn't finish what we had."

Canada hasn't scored since its 5-2 win over Ecuador to open its tournament. The Canadians had lost 2-0 to Costa Rica and 2-0 to Brazil heading into Wednesday's game.

"That's been the story of this tournament," acknowledged Canadian coach Daniel Worthington. "I think what we need to take away is we're getting into some good crossing opportunities. We're getting numbers in the box. And we just need that one or two extra pieces of commitment. It's a hunger and desire. So we just have to refocus the players."

Canada was attempting to defend the gold it won at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. But this Canadian team is missing the senior members who were part of that Pan Am victory and who anchored Canada at the recent World Cup.

Worthington refers to his young group as an Olympic development team. Most of Canada's Pan Am team is under 23 years of age.

The idea has been to get these younger players as much international experience as possible, especially playing under pressure.

The Canadian Press