Canada win Group A despite draw; Netherlands finishes third but still alive at Women’s World Cup

3 Comments

MONTREAL – Hosts Canada emerged winners of Group A at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, even if they backed their way into top spot with a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands on Monday at Olympic Stadium.

Kirsten Van De Ven equalized for the Netherlands in the 87th minute to earn the Dutch the draw. Canada (5 pts.) still won the group due to the 2-2 draw between New Zealand and China in the simultaneous Group A finale in Winnipeg. China took second place in the group over the Netherlands (each on 4 pts.) on a goal differential tiebreaker.

Ashley Lawrence scored early for Canada, but the hosts couldn’t hold on. Lawrence’s goal was her first on the senior international level and Canada’s first from open play in this tournament.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Women’s World Cup coverage | EqualizerSoccer.com ]

Christine Sinclair was happy to see Canada top Group A, but cautioned how Canada ended the match vs Netherlands. Giving up a goal in the final three minutes is something that can’t happen in the knockout round. Sinclair shared her thoughts.

“Ultimately our goal was to win the group,” she said. “We did that and we’re proud of that. You hope that in the last five to 10 minutes of a game up 1-0 you can close out the game. Maybe a little naive on our part. There’s no excuses for them to get almost get a 3-v-1 in the last couple minutes of the game. We can learn from it because these are moments we won’t get back now that we’re headed into the knockout stage.”

Dutch skipper Mandy Van Den Berg was satisfied with how the Netherlands played against Canada. She never lost faith and knew that a goal would eventually come as long as she trusted in the team and how they were playing.

“I think we played the way we actually wanted to play most parts of the game at least,” she said. “We started really good, we had the ball a lot. We were confident in the way of playing. I’m really satisfied by that. I felt that the goal, must, must, come. It’s soccer so you never know. I’ve always trusted in the team and if we continued the way we were playing at that moment, it has to come and finally it came.”

The Netherlands’ shaky defense put Canada in a great position to open the match with an early goal. Lawrence had her deflected shot pop up in the air. Sophie Schmidt out muscled her defender and headed the ball off the Netherlands’ crossbar in the 6th minute. The Dutch back line has been vulnerable at times and Canada almost capitalized on a terrific opportunity.

But Canada was able to take advantage of that in the 10th minute. Schmidt was in the Dutch box and had her attempt on target blocked. The ball fell towards the patch of Ashley Lawrence. The 20-year-old midfielder was left unmarked and smashed the ball home past goalkeeper Loes Geurts.

Canada came to play and gave little time and space to the Netherlands in the first 30 minutes of the match. Kadeisha Buchanan, Carmelina Moscato and Lawrence had timely tackles that limited the Netherlands’ attacking front. Lieke Martens had a shot that went well over the bar and Danielle Van De Donk missed a great chance in close on Erin McLeod.

[MORE: One-on-one with Dutch teenage star Vivianne Miedema]

Coach Roger Reijners and the Netherlands were the first team waiting in the tunnel for the start of the second half. However, it was teenager Jessie Fleming and again Canada that had the better scoring opportunities and quality chances in the first 10 minute after the restart. Netherlands were lucky to escape a two-goal defect as Canada were in search for an all important insurance goal.

In the 56th minute, La Oranje broke in on a 3-v-2 counterattack. Allysha Champan forced Van De Donk to the outside and the Netherlands midfielder was unable to hit the target from a sharp angle. Moments later, Sherida Spitse had a free kick opportunity that was hammed into the Canada wall and cleared away.

Canada coach John Herdman made a double substitution in the 61st minute to try to help his team settle in and close out the Netherlands. Melissa Tancredi and Desiree Scott entered the match for Kaylyn Kyle and Fleming. Tancredi moved up top next to Leon and Sinclair, while Schmidt dropped into the midfield for the vacated Fleming.

Manon Melis had a wonderful opportunity to make the Netherlands level in the 83rd minute, just before the eventual equalizer.

Canada will play in Vancouver in the Round of 16 on Sunday against a third-place finisher from either Group C, D, or E. The Netherlands are still likely to advance as a third-place team.

Herdman made four changes to his starting lineup in an effort to get his teams beleaguered offense going. Geuerts returned to the Netherlands’ starting lineup and Reijners elected to keep his trio of Martens, Vivianne Miedema and Melis in tact.

Vivianne Miedema was kept in check by Kadeisha Buchanan and had a relatively quiet match. The 18-year-old Dutch superstar was happy with the chances Holland created against Canada.

“I think we played quite okay, way better than the second game,” she said. “We created a lot of chances. I think we were better than Canada some parts of the game. Of course Canada is a good country and they also create chances. I think it was from all sides.”

Miedema and her teammates were unaware of the New Zealand and China score. When Van De Ven equalized the Netherlands jumped for joy, and had a feeling that they had put themselves in good standing for the knockout round.

“I was quite happy,” Miedema said. “We didn’t know the other score from the game so we didn’t know if we had to score or not. If you score, you are almost sure about the next round. It was good.”

Canada Starting XI: Erin McLeod; Allysha Chapman, Carmelina Moscato, Kadeisha Buchanan, Josee Belanger; Ashley Lawrence, Kaylyn Kyle (Melissa Tancredi 61), Jessie Fleming (Desiree Scott 61); Sophie Schmidt (Rhian Wilkinson 80), Christine Sinclair(C), Adriana Leon. (4-3-3)

Netherlands Starting XI: Loes Geurts; Van Dongen, Mandy Van Den Berg(C), Van Der Gragt, Van Lunteren (Dominique Janssen 12); Spitse, Danielle Van De Donk (Kirsten Van De Ven 72) , Dekker; Lieke Martens, Vivianne Miedema, Manon Melis. (4-3-3)

Alex Morgan out for season with knee injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

We knew Alex Morgan was hurt. You could see it, I could see it, we all could see it. Yet she insisted all throughout the 2019 Women’s World Cup, “I’m ok.”

Now we confirmation that she wasn’t ok.

Morgan announced she will miss the rest of the 2019 NWSL season for the Orlando Pride with a knee injury, confirming she’s been dealing with the problem since the World Cup. “I’m disappointed I won’t be able to compete with the Pride for the remainder of 2019 due to a knee injury I’ve been managing since the World Cup,” Morgan wrote on Instagram, “and that I can’t be there to help my teammates and my club have more success.”

The Pride are bottom of the NWSL table, with just four wins in 21 matches this season. Morgan has played in just six of those, four before the World Cup and two after, without scoring or assisting a single goal. Orlando won just one of the six games Morgan appeared in, the most recent one on August 21 against second-placed Chicago. Meanwhile, they were shut out in four of the six games she appeared in, with Morgan registering just one lone shot among the six appearances.

“I have already started physical therapy in LA and am eager to get back on the field doing what I love,” Morgan said without offering any other details on her injury.

The 30-year-old USWNT star scored five goals in their opening match of the 2019 Women’s World Cup against Thailand, assisting three more as the U.S. won 13-0. However, she was a consistent target for physical play in the ensuing match against Sweden and was seemingly injured in the 33rd minute, leading Jill Ellis to withdraw the striker at halftime. Morgan did not appear herself over the rest of the tournament, scoring just one more goal the rest of the way and at times looking unusually off the pace. Opposing teams copied Sweden’s strategy, targeting Morgan throughout the tournament with repeated kicks, fouls, and physical play.

“his year has had the highest of highs but along with that comes challenges and sometimes even falling short of my goals I set for myself in 2019,” Morgan wrote in her announcement.

UCL preview: Messi back for Barcelona v. Dortmund, Liverpool visits Napoli

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Champions League group stage is back. So is Lionel Messi.

Tuesday kicks off the 2019/20 Champions League in earnest, with a litany of powerhouse matchups dotting the landscape. Most notably, Barcelona’s five-time Ballon d’Or winner is in the squad for the trip to the Rhur valley to take on Borussia Dortmund, potentially set for his first appearance of the season after missing Barcelona’s first four matches of the season with a calf injury.

[ PST writers predict the CL group stage ]

Those two teams are both roaring back from disappointing league losses, and come into this match in good attacking form. Barcelona fell to Athletic Bilbao on the opening weekend of the La Liga season, but is unbeaten in their last three with 12 goals in those three games. Dortmund, meanwhile, fell to Union Berlin at the end of August but crushed third-tier Ergenie Cottbus in cup action before blowing out fellow Champions League participants Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 this past weekend. 19-year-old Jadon Sancho provided two assists in that most recent game and will get his first crack at the La Liga giants.

Defending champions Liverpool are on the road at Napoli, with the Italians having integrated Hirving “Chucky” Lozano into the squad. The Mexican international got his first start against Sampdoria over the weekend in a 2-0 win, playing 65 minutes. The Reds fell in this same fixture last season en route to the title, losing 1-0 at San Paolo Stadium in one of their worst performances of the season. This time around they are top of the Premier League through five matches – all wins – but will be without Divock Origi, Alisson, and Naby Keita through injury while Andy Robertson is a game-time decision.

[ Villa, West Ham meet in scoreless draw ]

Chelsea hosts Spanish side Valencia in an absolutely wide-open and loaded Group H that features four quality sides, meaning every game will be a significant challenge. The Blues’ defense has been quite poor so far this season, and will again be without Antonio Rudiger thanks to a groin problem picked up after just making his return over the weekend from knee surgery. Chelsea has never lost to Valencia in six European meetings, their joint-most games without losing against any European opponent.

On the other end of that brutal Group H, new-look Ajax hosts French side Lille. The visitors finished second in Ligue 1 last season and have three wins in their first five this campaign, proceeding without Nicolas Pepe after his sale to Arsenal this summer. Ajax has also lost highly valued young talent, with Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt having left for greener pastures, although they have thus maintained an unbeaten record this season, earning a berth in the group stage while proceeding through two qualifying stages.

Benfica hosts RB Leipzig in another brutal group, Group G that also features Zenit St. Petersburg and Lyon who match up in France. Leipzig leads the Bundesliga with an unbeaten first four matches, including a draw against defending champions Bayern Munich. Striker Timo Werner has a fabulous five goal haul through RB Leipzig’s first four league matches including a hat-trick against Borussia Monchengladbach. Benfica has also started its league campaign well with four wins in five, a solid sign after the loss of young star Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid.


Tuesday Champions League matches:

Inter v. Slavia Prague (12:55pm ET)
Lyon v. Zenit St. Petersburg

Ajax v. Lille (3:00pm ET)
Benfica v. RB Leipzig
Borussia Dortmund v. Barcelona
Chelsea v. Valencia
FC Salzburg v. Racing Genk
Napoli v. Liverpool

Pellegrini chastises Masuaku for red card against Villa

Leave a comment

Manuel Pellegrini said he was “very happy for the performance of the team” despite the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa that saw West Ham record just one single shot on target.

Still, he noted that he was less than pleased with the sending off of Arthur Masuaku, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the West Ham manager said the referee can be easily goaded into soft decisions against the away side by raucous fans. “It’s a typical sending off when you play away,” Pellegrini said in his post-match television interview. “With the pressure of the fans in every foul, of our players that had a yellow card – in this case Arthur Masuaku, Mark Noble, and another player in the first half, I don’t think this was a yellow card, but playing away it is very easy for the referee to send him off.”

Later, he noted that a discussion at halftime with Masuaku about his earlier booking was unsuccessful. “They [the home fans] try to do it with the pressure of the fans,” Pellegrini said in the post-match press conference. “They tried to do it with Mark Noble in the first-half, they try to get a second yellow. We [Masuaku] talked about it at half-time. We told him he must be careful.”

That didn’t pan out, as Masuaku was sent off for a second yellow card earned while fouling Ahmed Elmohamady who had just come onto the pitch moments earlier. The foul was deemed somewhat soft, but match commentator Martin Tyler pointed out – as Pellegrini seems to be indicating – that Masuaku’s mistake was giving the referee the opportunity to make the call for an otherwise needless foul.

Despite the one negative moment, Pellegrini was pleased with the team’s overall performance on the road.

“I prefer to talk about our team,” Pellegrini said when asked about the refereeing decisions. “I think we played a very good game. We had the personality to come here and try to win the game from the beginning, and the last action, the last play of the game we had a very clear chance to score. We played with 10 men exactly the same that we did with 11. We tried defending well, we tried to continue scoring a goal, so I am very happy for the performance of the team, for the personality of the team, and when you are playing away if you can’t win the game, don’t lose it.”

UEFA Champions League group stage predictions

Photo by VI Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

To have our crew predict it, the UEFA Champions League group stage should prove to be fairly straight-forward.

[ MORE: UCL score predictions, Wk 1 ]

Our three consulted staffers at Pro Soccer Talk have predicted 18 teams for the 16 spots in the group stage, including a healthy three seeded spots for Premier League sides.

GROUP A

Joe Prince-Wright: PSG, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge
Nick Mendola: PSG, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge
Kyle Bonn: Real Madrid, PSG, Galatasaray, Club Brugge

Zinedine Zidane to bring the UCL magic touch back to Spain? One of our three think so, while JPW and Nick both figure Mbappe and Neymar will be too much for the group.

GROUP B

Joe Prince-Wright: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Olympiacos, Red Star
Nick Mendola: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Olympiacos, Red Star  
Kyle Bonn: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Red Star, Olympiacos

There’s a gulf in class between the top two and bottom two, but be careful with overlooking Olympiacos; The Greek club was very difficult to break down in qualifying.

GROUP C

Joe Prince-Wright: Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb
Nick Mendola: Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb
Kyle Bonn:  Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb

The only team in the world averaging more shots per game than Manchester City this early season is Atalanta. Colombian attackers Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel have combined for six of the side’s seven Serie A goals this season.

GROUP D

Joe Prince-Wright: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow
Nick Mendola: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen
Kyle Bonn: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow

While it’s certainly more complex than Joao Felix against the previous Portuguese generation’s Joao Felix, Atletico Madrid will hope its young wizard has the goods to break down Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juve.

GROUP E

Joe Prince-Wright: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk
Nick Mendola: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk
Kyle Bonn: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk

The order of this group isn’t as interesting as the performances, as American eyes will be watching how Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch manages to get on versus two of Europe’s best.

GROUP F

Joe Prince-Wright: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Slavia Prague
Nick Mendola: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Slavia Prague
Kyle Bonn: Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Slavia Prague

Is Inter Milan’s renaissance for real? Nick and JPW thinks so, while Kyle Bonn thinks Lucien Favre’s BVB will keep humming past the Serie A giants.

GROUP G

Joe Prince-Wright: Lyon, RB Leipzig, Benfica, Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Nick Mendola: RB Leipzig, Lyon, Zenit Saint-Petersburg, Benfica
Kyle Bonn: Lyon, RB Leipzig, Benfica, Zenit Saint-Petersburg

Anything could happen here, and only Nick believes Timo Werner and RBL can outlast Memphis Depay, Moussa Dembele, and Lyon to win a seeded place in the knockout rounds.

GROUP H

Joe Prince-Wright: Chelsea, Ajax, Lille, Valencia
Nick Mendola: Chelsea, Valencia, Lille, Ajax
Kyle Bonn: Chelsea, Lille, Ajax, Valencia

Massive names with equal-sized questions. In other years, this would look like a group of death, but Lille earned its place via now-sold Nicolas Pepe and Ajax sold a good part of a golden academy generation to Barcelona, Juventus, and others. Chelsea, oddly enough, may be counting its blessings.