Cosmos Copa: Semifinals Recap
In one of the most thrilling matches in the highest of stakes so far at Cosmos Copa, Poland continued their dominance of the tournament to advance to the 2012 Final, but not before quite a few scares from a dangerous Senegal team that did just about everything it could to avenge last year’s loss in the Final.
Senegal seemed to be in control for much of the first half. With Poland sitting deep, Senegal was able to take control of the midfield, and they often got past the wall of Polish defenders, but thanks to the heroics of Polish keeper Marcin Czerwinski, the game remained scoreless for the first half.
However, Czerwinski nearly did allow an early goal. Within the first ten minutes, Senegal forward Birahim Diop crossed a shot from about 30 yards out that was picked off by Czerwinski, but he dropped the ball and nearly let in an easy goal for a Senegalese striker standing just inches away.
There were some other close calls throughout the half. Diop nearly headed in off a cross from the left off a free kick, and soon after, a 20-yard cross from Senegal’s Souleymane Kone nearly snuck in the right post, but it went into the side net.
Poland seemed content for much of the first half to sit back and wait for their chances, but this strategy allowed Senegal to remain on the front foot but they simply couldn’t capitalize—somewhat due to miscommunication. On one free kick, Senegal midfielder Essaha Jallow kicked the ball point blank off his teammate Kone’s leg. On other plays, teammates simply did not see passes coming their way.
At the start of the second half, Senegal had its best chance of the day. On a corner from the right that the Polish keeper was unable to grab, Emmanual Gomez almost headed it into the net from point blank range, but the keeper was able to recover and scramble over just in time to deflect it.
Finally, Poland, which had been sitting back for much of the match, found its opening and pounced. Polish dynamo midfielder, Teddy Niziolek crossed it in from the left sideline from about 20 yards away, and it was headed in near post by Christopher Karcz among a sea of fellow Polish forwards for the first goal of the game. Senegal called for a handball, but to no avail.
Poland wasn’t done playing offense yet, though. They thought they had scored on a shot from about 10 yards out but the play was ruled to be offside. Minutes later, Damian Serafin fed a beautiful through ball to Karcz on a breakway, but it was broken up by the last Senegal defender to keep the deficit at one.
Then things started to get ugly. In the 83rd minute, Senegal’s Gomez brought down a Polish player with his shoulder to draw a yellow, but then shoved his victim, leaving the ref no choice but to give him a red, severely hindering his team’s chances of finding an equalizer.
Off the next kick, a Senegal and Polish player began shoving each other even before the ball was put in play, and they tackled each other to the ground, causing a minor wrestling match. However, no cards were issued.
Just when things appeared hopeless for the 10-man Senegalese, Pape Thioune collected the ball on the left, dribbled into the box and found the space to let off a shot that snuck in the near post and tied it at 1-1 to send the game to penalties.
Senegal was lucky there was no overtime. Not only did they only have 10 men, but they were clearly gassed after having run around on offense for much of the previous 90 minutes.
In the first round of penalty kicks, Senegal’s Pape Thioune went low left and Poland’s Niziolek scored a mirror image penalty. Then Senegal’s Omar Niong went top left and Poland’s Marcin Kasica easily scored top right to keep it even at 2-2.
However, next Senegal’s Ousmane Sall hit it just wide of the left post and was visibly upset, having to be consoled by his teammates, while Poland’s David Musinski went top right to give the two-time champs the lead at 3-2.
Next Senegal’s Elhadj Diop went down the middle for the easy goal, and Poland’s Kasica barely snuck it in the right post, just out of Malick Faye’s desperate grasp to make it 4-3.
On what might have been their final shot, Senegal’s Mamadou Doudoud Diouf went with a very light reverse-foot tap-in to the left to embarrass the keeper. With the game on his foot, though, Poland’s star strker Karcz, skied it well over the crossbar to keep it tied at 4-4.
In the sudden death penalty kicks, Senegal’s Oumar Mbaye kicked it slightly to the right for an easy goal, and Poland’s Zbigiew Puzio went top left and buried it, making it 5-5.
On the next series, though, Senegal’s Vincent Tavares got too cute, sending a soft low shot to the left, and it was caught up the Polish keeper, Czerwinski. Once again with a chance to win it, Poland didn’t flinch this time, and Konrad Plewa snuck it just inside the left post for the winner, immediately inciting a circle of singing polish fans in the corner and players and an anguished pile of Senegalese penalty takers at midfield.
NYC Haiti 5-1 NYC Bolivia
Jean-Batiste Fritzson led NYC Haiti to an impressive 5-1 win over NYC Bolivia to advance to the Cosmos Copa Final for the first time.
Similar to their start against Jamaica in the quarterfinals, Haiti came out of the gates with incredible intensity as their speed of play overwhelmed a Bolivian side that struggled to find their usual passing rhythm.
At the seven-minute mark, Haiti broke up a Bolivian passing sequence in midfield and broke towards goal. Jean-Batiste Fritzson managed to receive the ball with no one around him, but his shot missed wide, much to the relief of the outstretched Bolivian keeper.
Haiti continued to press forward as the half progressed, barely allowing their South American opponent to get a touch on the ball. Fritzson nearly found the score sheet again after he raced past the leftback only for the keeper to save with his legs.
Keeping with the theme, Yvener Guerrier threatened the Bolivian goal for the Haitians when he latched onto a dangerous cross in the six-yard box, but instead of trying to guide the ball into the net, he blasted it over the crossbar.
Bolivia nearly opened the scoring against the run of play with 15 minutes left in the half only for Jose Carlos Linares’s shot to get cleared off the line by Ricardo Ade. The chance came off one of Bolivia's rare counter attacks in the match, despite that tactic proving successful for the South Americans throughout the tournament.
Moments later, Fritzson finally found the goal he was craving after he cut inside his defender and curled an exquisite ball past the keeper and into the top corner. The goal was a thing of pure beauty.
Fritzson nearly added to his tally after being played through by a diagonal ball that flew over the top of the Bolivian defense, but his attempted chip sailed inches over the crossbar.
By the time the first half ended, Bolivia were grateful not to be down by more than just one goal while the Haitians were left questioning their finishing ability in the final third.
Bolivia entered the second half with a bit more attacking intent than they displayed in the first and they nearly found an equalizer when Luis Carlos Berajano pounced on a loose ball and fired on target only for the Haitian keeper to make an acrobatic save.
However, before the Bolivians could conjure up any more attacking chances, Joel Denose had a moment of pure genius when he chipped the out of position Bolivian keeper from forty yards out. His teammates immediately piled on top of him in celebration.
However, in a dramatic turn of events, before Haiti could fully digest their wonder-goal, Ade was shown a red card when he was called for using his hand to prevent a Bolivian shot from entering the net a-la Luis Suarez at the 2010 World Cup. Barajano stepped up for Bolivia and scored the ensuing penalty, sending the boisterous Bolivian fans into celebration as hope of reaching the final was restored.
Immediately after the converted penalty, Fritzson nearly silenced the Bolivians and booked a spot for Haiti in the final only for his volleyed effort to miss wide to the right.
However, Elysee Vilsaint had his own plans of quieting the raucous Bolivians when he tapped in from close range after a lighting-fast counter attack that took the play from one penalty box to the other in a blink of the eye.
Haiti ensured their victory in the 78th minute when Fritzson continued to terrorize the Bolivian defense by muscling past a full back before playing the ball across the face of goal for Vilsaint to tap in.
Fritzson completed the rout in the 90th minute with an emphatic near post finish that signaled the Haitians intent of becoming the first non-European side be crowned champions of Cosmos Copa. The Bolivians left the field dejected but proud of their accomplishments in this year's tournament.