(Reuters) – With a new coach in charge and a run of poor results in the build up to Copa America, Canada were tipped by many to make an early exit, but Jesse Marsch’s side continued their dream run at the tournament on Friday by beating Venezuela to move into the semi finals.

Canada’s preparations for their first-ever Copa America campaign were far from ideal, with Marsch only being appointed in May and taking charge of a team that had won just two out of their last five matches.

His first match as coach was a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Netherlands on June 6, 15 days before their tournament opener against Argentina, which they lost 2-0.

Canada were the lowest-ranked team in Group A, but kept two clean sheets as they ground out results against Peru and Chile to qualify for the quarter-finals, where they pressed with intensity and claimed a 1-1 draw with Venezuela, before winning on penalties.

Asked what he had learnt about the Canada team in the month since his first match on the sidelines, Marsch told reporters: “All the things that I know about them now, I sensed back then; their commitment, their desire, their willingness to learn.

“All of that has led to bigger belief and self-confidence.”

With an average age of just over 25 years, Canada have one of the youngest squads at the Copa America.

‘Les Rouges’ have used their youthful exuberance to great effect in the tournament, turning matches into gruelling physical contests while looking to use their speed to catch opponents on the break.

“It’s a very athletic team. It’s a very fast team. I’ve tried to build in the right kind of aggression for them to go after opponents, to go after big games and to believe in how we’re building this,” Marsch said.

“Their commitment to try to learn, their belief in what I’m doing with them is very, very high. They’re capable because they’re athletic, because they’re strong, because they’re young.

“We’ve seen an incredibly fast learning curve but it’s because they’re excited about playing this way and they’re excited about what we’re trying to achieve together.”

Canada face a stern test in the bid to reach the final, however, and will come up in the semi final against an Argentina side that has already beaten them in this tournament. Marsch said his team would look to put the lessons it had learned from the first defeat into action.

“We’re excited about where we are in our development and that we have earned the right to give it another shot. And we’ll treat it that way,” Marsch said.

“We’ll be positive. We’ll be aggressive. We’re not going to sit back and just try to defend. We’re going to try to play the way we were playing and then see if it can hold up.”

Canada will face Argentina in New Jersey on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Brought to you by www.srnnews.com