It happens quite often, when two semifinals are played one after the other, that great excitement is followed by an anticlimax. This is what happened today in San Bernardo in the Panamerican Women’s Championship.
Cuba had already offered a couple of great performances, but today they showed a tremendous determination and tenacity in the semifinal against the defending champions Argentina. Early in the game, Argentina gained a 7-4 lead and a Cuban player was given a ‘red card’, so for the rest of the game they did not have more than eleven players available as compared with sixteen for Argentina. But at least this is better than the seven they had in the first game of the event. And their goalkeeper was putting up an absolutely spectacular performance. So at half-time it was tied at 13-13 and the game continued to be close throughout the second half. Cuba obtained a two-goal lead just before the end, but Argentina was able to tie the game at 28-28.
Double overtime followed. Because after 5+5 minutes the score was 33-33. And believe it or not, after an additional 5+5 minutes the scoreboard showed 38-38! So on to a 7-meter shootout. Here the more experienced Argentines finally managed to get the upper hand. After the Cubans missed the third shot, hitting the crossbar, Argentina secured the win by scoring on both the fourth and the fifth throw. In other words, the final result was 43-41. Next after the Argentine team, perhaps the happiest ones were the Brazilian team. They surely did not mind that their opponents in tomorrow’s final had to go through the drama of 80 minutes plus a shootout… But the Cubans should be proud of their efforts.
In the second semifinal, Brazil had an easy time against Uruguay, just as expected. The final result was 40-14! When hosting an event and therefore having the right to choose a preliminary group, Brazil traditionally uses the tactic of taking the group with the stronger runner-up, in this case Cuba (or Chile) so that they can have an easier, safer semifinal… So tomorrow we will have Brazil-Argentina in the final and Cuba-Uruguay in the bronze medal game. All the four teams are already qualified for the World Championship. In the 5th place game, Chile defeated the Dominican Republic by the score 28-22. Mexico avoided last place by beating Venezuela 25-23, but both these teams will be relegated next time.
Apropos my arguments yesterday about the tournament format: I feel a bit sorry for Chile; I think there are reasons to the believe that they are stronger than Uruguay and that they deserved to have a chance to be in the semifinal and, more important, in the World Championship. But because of the format, they never got the chance to play against Uruguay.