2015 WC Group A

Women’s World Cup — what we learned on Day 10

1 Comment

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, we’re told, which is really disgusting and should get you thrown in jail, actually. (The origins of that gruesome cliche are interesting as well.)

Thailand and Ivory Coast attacked essentially being outclassed in completely different manners, and neither is necessarily wrong. Although, it would have been hard to argue that after last week’s first matches where Germany scored 10 times against the disheveled Ivorians and possibly could have doubled that with a little luck.

But Ivory Coast had taken the YOLO approach, throwing a legitimate 4-3-3 out there and not worrying about the repercussions of not giving much cover against the top-ranked team in the world. There were some benefits, even though they weren’t readily apparent in the match in question, the most important being that Ivory Coast actually looked dangerous on a few attacks and not just with one attacker who might get loose in a 1-v-3 situation. Thailand wasn’t about to be that brave, and they were able to frustrate Norway for long stretches. Their one outlet – Kanjara Sung-Ngeon – proved to be excellent in the thankless role, although organized, disciplined Thailand (whose average height is only 5-feet-4-inches) still fell 4-0.

[MORE: Complete coverage of 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup]

If the real test was when the two teams clashed, obviously Thailand’s method prevailed, the discipline took advantage of a couple of Ivory Coast mistakes (and the lack of an offside flag) to score three times and hold on for a 3-2 win.

But with one more chance to prove itself, Ivory Coast did not change who they were Monday against Norway, potentially setting themselves up for another lopsided result on its way out of Canada. However, as people squinted at their televisions (and in Moncton), hoping not to see another dismantling (possibly some masochists did), a funny thing happened. Ivory Coast and the dangerous Josee Nahi had the game’s first chance, and had a few others after that as well.

In the end, the Ivorians still have plenty of work to do on defensive organization and possibly goalkeeping, but they gave Norway (albeit a changed side) fits before falling 3-1. Ivory Coast had 46 percent possession and the shots ended up even at 16-16. And they left with possibly the goal of the tournament when Ange N’Guessan unleashed a 35-yard missile in the 71st minute, a goal they surely deserved on the balance of play.

Thailand certainly deserves plenty of credit Monday as well, as goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing and that discipline held Germany to just one first-half goal before falling 4-0. As I said before, their way of going about things was not incorrect, either. But with a little bit of coaching and experience, Ivory Coast, like Cameroon and Nigeria could be a factor in the international game in the not-so-distant future.

-Ray Curren

What else did we learn Monday in Groups A and B?

New Zealand falls short again: New Zealand have now played in four World Cups, including the last three, and have a combined match record of 0-9-3 (7 goals scored, 29 against.) Obviously they have yet to advance out of the group stage. But this is the one they will look at as one that got away. Sure they were hard done by a gaffe of epic proportions by the referee that altered the course of Monday’s 2-2 draw with China, but there was also Amber Hearn cracking her penalty off the crossbar in what turned out to be a scoreless draw against Canada. And there was Erin Nayler making her only mistake of the tournament and having it cost her team a pivotal goal against China. Hearn, the program’s marquee player, will be 34 at the next World Cup. Ali Riley and Emma Kete will also be across 30 and Abby Erceg and Ria Percival will be 29. That is not too old to make a run, but the window for the current crop is at the very least on its way down.

– Dan Lauletta

[KASSOUF: United States expects Nigeria to ‘fight for their lives’]

It’s tough to change gears on the fly sometimes:
Neither Germany nor Norway played well Monday, especially in their respective first halves. The coaches, despite changing several players each, will not make excuses for their teams, and they shouldn’t. However, even past all the new faces, it can sometimes be hard to play when: a) the opponent has proven that they are weaker than you, and b) the game is not essential. Yes, the group was at stake, but the goal difference was too much for Norway to realistically overcome, and really, second is almost as good as first going forward the way the bracket shapes up. The bottom line is I wouldn’t judge either team too much on this performance.

– Curren

China will be a tough out: If not for how good China were in the 1990s, the current iteration would be viewed as a future world power. Instead they are left to chase the Sun Wen teams that never quite got over the hump in a World Cup or Olympics. This team probably won’t either, but their first knockout match is going to be against Cameroon or Switzerland, and the winner of that likely gets the United States. The Chinese lack the breadth of attacking personalities to make a deep run, but whoever knocks them out is going to have to work at it.

Lauletta

Norway will likely need Ada Hegerberg to be ‘on’ to win: She won’t turn 20 until after the World Cup, but Hegerberg is clearly Norway’s best attacking option and her strength will be needed against whomever Norway draws going forward. But they’ll probably need her to finish, or at least set someone else up to do it. There is always the possibility that Norway could score on a set piece, and they wouldn’t necessarily need Hegerberg for that (see Mjelde, Maren), however if they’re scoring in the run of play, it will probably involve Hegerberg.

– Curren

Netherlands waiting, planning: There were high hopes for the Netherlands ahead of their first World Cup, and even though they won their opening match and grabbed a late equalizer against Canada to almost certainly go through, there must be an air of disappointment around the team. Their attacking components were not enough of a factor during group play and both the goals they surrendered were the products of horrible defensive miscues. Japan or Germany await in the Round of 16. That could be good insentive to throw caution to the wind and see if Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martins, and Manon Melis can help spring an upset.

– Lauletta
The weak group may actually hurt Germany: They obviously struggled in the second half against Norway, and really weren’t tested any other time. So does Silvia Neid really know what she has? Dzsenifer Marozsan came in battling an injury (yet curiously started Monday) and has not looked great in either of her two matches. Nadine Angerer had a couple of solid saves against Norway, but who knows about her and the back line? If they get in trouble against a team like Sweden in the second round, how confident will they be to find their way out? Or are we nitpicking and moving toward the panic button for no reason?

– Curren

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)

Advancement scenarios for every group, team at 2015 Women’s World Cup

Leave a comment

Two matches down and one to go in group play at the 2015 Women’s World Cup and there is still so much we don’t know about how the knockout brackets will look.  The only two teams certainly moving on are Japan and Brazil, with the latter the only team to have won its group.  No one is officially eliminated but it will take a miracle for Nigeria and something far greater than that for Ecuador or Ivory Coast.  But most everything else is at least partially up in the air.  Let’s look at how things are shaping up.  And don’t forget, four of the six 3rd-place finishers will move on.

For this tournament no one is getting through on 2 points.  Colombia took care of that with their upset of France on Saturday.  That means Sweden’s chances of slipping by with a loss to Australia went from slim to impossible.  They will need a result.  Thailand did not like that Colombia result either.  As it stands now, they are through, but unless they get a point off Germany (it would dwarf Colombia’s upset if they do) they will need Sweden and Nigeria to lose in Group D and Costa Rica to lose or Spain/Korea Republic to end in a draw in Group E.  That is a lot to ask.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Women’s World Cup coverage ]

Teams that are on 4 points right now—Canada, Germany, Norway, United States, and Colombia—are not guaranteed to go through, but the scenarios to knock them out are so outlandish they need not be discussed unless they happen.  But suffice it to say that while all six groups still stand a chance of having three teams reach four points, unless Thailand holds Germany and Nigeria beats the United States, those five teams are moving on.  That means 14 teams are battling for nine spots in the knockout rounds.

Let’s look at each group:

Group A:  Canada win the group with a win and that might be more important than originally thought since finishing second will yield a match against Cameroon or Switzerland instead of a 3rd-place finisher.  Netherlands and China are all but through with draws and definitely with wins, while New Zealand are all but through with a win but definitely eliminated with a loss or draw.

Group B:  If we assume Germany will beat Thailand and Norway will do the same to Ivory Coast, then the two winners are through with Germany winning the group so long as they don’t allow Norway to overcome a six-goal margin on goal difference.  Ivory Coast probably needs to beat Norway by a dozen goals (had to say it) while Thailand needs a point or for the scenarios listed above to play out.

Group C:  If Ecuador somehow defeat Japan, the winner of Cameroon-Switzerland will steal the group, but realistically that latter match is for second with Switzerland getting the advantage if they draw.  Lopsided wins over Ecuador put both of those teams in good tiebreaker standing, meaning a draw will send them both through and a narrow loss will be enough so long as four groups don’t wind up with three teams on 4 points.

[ KASSOUF: Wambach says she, US would score more on grass instead of turf ]

Group D:  The United States wins the group by beating Nigeria, for whom a draw is no good.  Australia-Sweden is a juicy finale where the winner moves on.  Sweden are definitely done with a loss and stand a chance with a draw.  Australia are likely through with a draw, definitely if Nigeria does not win.

Group E:  Brazil have won the group, which could play into the favor of Costa Rica, who could get a break if the Brazilians rest players as expected.  A win sends Costa Rica through.  A win for either team in the Spain/Korea Republic match will be enough to get through.  A draw eliminates Korea Republic and can get Spain through if Costa Rica lose by two or more goals.  If Costa Rica gets a draw with Brazil they are through if the other game ends in a draw, and will stand a better chance if Sweden lose or draw with fewer goals than Costa Rica.

Group F:  Amazingly Colombia and England will play with the former in control of the group and England positioned to win the group by beating Colombia and not dropping goal differential to France.  Mexico are done but have to beat France or they are eliminated.  The up-to-date brackets show France playing the United States in the Round of 16 but if they beat Mexico they are guaranteed a top-two spot in the group.  Colombia are very likely to have clinched a knockout berth by the time they take the field.

Reminder of which combinations of which third-place teams would play in which Round of 16 games (chart via the very knowledgeable Jen Cooper at Keeper Notes):

Advancing 3rd place teams 1A plays 1B plays 1C plays 1D plays
A B C D 3C 3D 3A 3B
A B C E 3C 3A 3B 3E
A B C F 3C 3A 3B 3F
A B D E 3D 3A 3B 3E
A B D F 3D 3A 3B 3F
A B E F 3E 3A 3B 3F
A C D E 3C 3D 3A 3E
A C D F 3C 3D 3A 3F
A C E F 3C 3A 3F 3E
A D E F 3D 3A 3F 3E
B C D E 3C 3D 3B 3E
B C D F 3C 3D 3B 3F
B C E F 3E 3C 3B 3F
B D E F 3E 3D 3B 3F
C D E F 3C 3D 3F 3E

 

Women’s World Cup — what we learned on Day 6

Leave a comment

When I began coaching girls soccer more than a decade ago, one of the first books I grabbed on the subject was “Even Pellerud on Coaching and Leadership in Women’s Soccer”.

Pellerud had coached Norway to the 1995 World Cup title and was fresh off a remarkable 2003 semifinal run with Canada (where the Canadians led Sweden through 78 minutes before falling 2-1). Like the style of play he advocated, the book was very direct, saying the key to winning in the women’s game was about having superior athletes, being in the best physical condition, and – above everything else – putting pressure on the opponent all over the field (it was very similar to the mentality of an early U.S. coach, Anson Dorrance, who wrote a piece for the book as well).

As the years passed and I became more experienced, Pellerud’s ideas seemed more and more antiquated. They promoted an ugly style of play and were pretty sexist in many ways when it came down to it. Despite the success on the field, eventually Pellerud wore out his welcome in Canada, ended up coaching Trinidad and Tobago for four years, and seemed like he might drift into the sunset until Norway, who failed to get out of the group stage for the first time at a World Cup in 2011 (while trying to play a style with more possession), brought him back with open arms in 2012.

Somewhat amazingly, the results followed as Norway made it all the way to the final of the 2013 European championships (losing to Germany) and rolled through 2015 World Cup qualifying with just one hiccup against the Netherlands.

Still, Thursday looked like the day where Pellerud might finally get some more comeuppance against a Germany team that, quite frankly, made his team look silly in the first half, taking the first 17 shots of the match. It didn’t matter how physical or athletic Norway was, they couldn’t sniff the ball, Germany was almost teasing them at every turn.

[MORE: Complete coverage of 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup]

But it was only 1-0 at the half and a funny thing happened. Pellerud had seen that Gry Tofte Ims just couldn’t keep the ball, and replaced her with veteran Solveig Gulbrandsen, who had retired five YEARS ago (while in WPS) and – now at the age of 34 – is likely not as athletic or physical. With a slight tweak of formation, suddenly Norway at least had a toehold on the game, Germany was not able to go through them at will, and thanks to a perfectly placed free kick by Maren Mjelde, Norway was able to grab a point against what appear to be the tournament favorites.

Yes, they were out-shot 27-4 according to FIFA, but by the end, Norway was able to get up to 48 percent possession, and if you watched the game, they certainly deserved a point from their second-half performance. Much of the credit has to go to the wily veteran Pellerud, who made the correct adjustments both tactically and psychologically.

And so, for Thursday at least, I tip my cap to you, Even Pellerud. Unfortunately, my copy of his book has long since gone to book heaven.

-Ray Curren

What else did we learn Thursday in Groups A and B?

Canada are likely through: Two games in to their home World Cup, Canada have yet to look particularly good and have not scored from the run of play. But by drawing New Zealand 0-0 the Canadians now have four points and thanks to a generous formula for advancing and the way other groups are shaking up that is very likely already enough. They have already clinched a top three spot in Group A and among other scenarios, they will advance if Germany draws or beats Thailand and neither England not Mexico beat France or England. Other scenarios apply as well, but for all intents and purposes Canada will play at least one knockout match.

-Dan Lauletta

Germany is not invincible: In a way, that’s not the worst thing at this stage for Germany. It’s easy to forget that the Germans were 14-0-1 (including two titles) in their last 15 matches leading up to the shocking loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals. They didn’t qualify for the Olympics thanks to UEFA’s lack of a qualifier, won the 2013 Euros (although they did lose to Norway in the group stage), and then rolled through 2015 World Cup qualifying without really being tested. They won’t be tested against Thailand, will probably win their second round game easily, and then will likely face France in the quarterfinals (which will be a shame, but it is what it is). So a little humble pie at this stage might not be the worst thing in the world going forward.

-Curren

[KASSOUF: Stakes high for much-hyped USA-Sweden]

Live by the spot, die by the spot: As I watched Canada’s tournament-opening win over China after the fact, the result already known, I could not help but think about how much pressure suddenly fell on Christine Sinclair’s shoulders when she stood over the stoppage time penalty. After four years of buildup and 90 minutes of sweat, the fate of the opening match rested on her foot. Sinclair converted. The stakes were not quite as high for New Zealand’s Amber Hearn since her turn at the spot was only a third of the way into Thursday’s match. But Hearn, New Zealand’s all-time leading scorer, missed. Her spot kick rattled off the crossbar–a piece of wood that had a particularly busy night–and an hour later the Ferns were still looking for their first ever World Cup win and first goal of the tournament. Everyone misses penalties but Hearn will long rue that one of New Zealand are unable to beat China which they must do in order to progress out of group play for the first time.

-Lauletta

The road not taken: “It is what it is,” but Norway and Pellerud have to like how this is setting up for them. Barring a miracle, Germany will finish first, Norway second, which will likely give Norway a match-up with England, who looked lifeless in its opener. It would then set up a possible quarterfinal with host Canada, who also hasn’t looked stellar through two matches, and based on karma alone, Pellerud has to like his team’s chances. Even then, Germany, France, and the United States will all be on the other side of the bracket. Maybe karma is paying it forward for the Caroline Graham Hansen injury as well.

Sloppy finish for Netherlands: China’s stoppage-time goal stands out as the highlight moment of the 1-0 win over the Netherlands, but there should be an awful lot of head scratching at Dutch headquarters as they prepare to finish the group against Canada. For starters, they appeared to set up tactically as if they were okay not scoring against an admittedly stingy Chinese defense. But the goal sequence was a study in poor discipline and shape. First they allowed China loads of room and space in the middle of the park. That is not the worst tactic especially on tired legs, but in doing so it implies tight marking and aggressive defending further back. Instead the Netherlands defense allowed a switching ball to be played to Wang Lisi at which point communication appeared to break down between defender Merel Van Dongen and keeper Sari Van Veenendaal. That was more than enough for Lisi to finish and leave the Netherlands teetering on three points. So now the Netherlands will go into the Canada match knowing they need at least a draw or help on the scoreboard to get to the last 16.

-Lauletta

Joy for Thailand, heartbreak for Ivory Coast: My immediate reaction after the wild and entertaining (if not very well played) 3-2 win by Thailand over Ivory Coast was disappointment for the Ivorians. As I said after the Germany match, I think they’re better than they’ve shown, but the lack of defensive organization (even if two of the goals were clearly offside) and goalkeeping were just too much to overcome, even if they were the more talented team. But on the other hand, what a moment for Thailand. Four-foot-11 Orathai Srimanee has played more futsal than soccer in her career, but scored her first two international goals to lead her country to victory. If Thailand is able to miraculously advance, who knows what this could mean not just for women’s soccer, but soccer in general in Thailand.

-Curren

Canada underwhelms in scoreless draw with New Zealand at Women’s World Cup

Leave a comment

EDMONTON, Alberta – Canada and New Zealand played a fast-paced match but ended in a 0-0 draw on a slick surface at Commonwealth Stadium on Thursday.

The match had to be halted four minutes in as rain poured down and thunder and lighting were heard and seen in the distance. The crowd of 36,544 spectators left disappointed after the scoreless draw, but Canada still sit atop Group A at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

New Zealand Amber Hearn hit the crossbar on a New Zealand penalty in the 33rd minute, and Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt also found the bar in the second half. Both goalkeepers — Erin McLeod and Erin Nayler — came up big for their teams.

“We kind of knew New Zealand was going to come out with a high press and it was going to be kind of a very chaotic game,” McLeod said. “I think considering that, we tried to keep our calm as much as we could. We tried to play around as much as we could and I think we did pretty well. We didn’t build up as much as normal out of the back. Mostly because that’s one of their strategies, to take advantage of that. I thought we varied it up, I thought we had more final acts than we’ve had in the previous game. Now we just have to start putting them away.”

Canada now sit at the top of Group A with 4 points, followed by China and the Netherlands with 3 poiints. New Zealand have 1 point.

Canada coach John Herdman, who managed New Zealand from 2006-2011, said prior to the match that Canada is a better team than New Zealand.

[ MORE: Complete coverage of 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup ]

“I think regardless of what he says, you want to stick it to him anyway,” New Zealand captain Abby Erceg said. “Anytime you have an old coach going to a different team you just want to prove a point. Like I said, I think it was a fair result today. Obviously we’re out to win and we just couldn’t make it happen. We’ll have to wait until next time.”

Herdman was pleased with how his team performed. The defense for Canada was solid. Once again, scoring goals is something Canada can’t seem to do. For Herdman, their are more positive signs and it’s not all doom and gloom for Canada.

“I’m not going to protect the team, but the stats don’t lie,” Herdman said. “That was a decent performance from Canada. Don’t underestimate the opposition in our group. The women’s game has moved in a big way. You watch China today, completely dominate the Netherlands. The gaps aren’t the same that they use to be. We scouted New Zealand and Wilkinson didn’t get in that pocket. She didn’t score tonight, she got substituted. We dealt with that. The direct play, we knew it was coming. The free kicks and the corners, that’s what we had to deal with. I thought we defended resolutely tonight. We’ve only conceded three shots on target in two games. Two clean sheets. If our front five can start finding the back of the net, this Canada team is going to be decent.”

Coming out of the weather delay, New Zealand looked to be the sharper team. A Kadeisha Buchanan foul earned the Football Ferns a dangerous free kick in the 11th minute. Hearn was able to connect and send a dangerous header on goal, but Erin McLeod did well to push the ball over the net for a New Zealand corner. The Kiwis also had a free kick that threatened Canada.

Canada had a brilliant opportunity to open the scoring with a quick transition and teamwork. Melissa Tancredi fed Sophie Schmidt, who sent a cross into the New Zealand box. Jonelle Filigno forced Erin Nayler to come up with a diving save. Moments later Nayler came up huge and denied Sinclair after Ashley Lawrence sent the skipper in 1-v-1.

“It was a physical battle out there,” Sinclair said. “I thought that we created a lot of chances and we couldn’t put one away. I think we gave them a few too many chances in terms of set plays. We knew that was probably going to be the only way they were going to score against us. I think we were a little careless sometimes.”

A Buchanan turnover forced Allysha Chapman into a bad spot just past the half-hour mark. Chapman got a piece of Hannah Wilkinson inside the Canada box and referee Bibiana Steinhaus pointed to the spot without hesitation. Hearn stepped up and promptly fired the ball off the crossbar. Erin McLeod was beat, but the woodwork bailed out Canada and cost New Zealand a vital goal.

New Zealand controlled much of the opening 45 minutes and Tony Readings’ side was unlucky not to have found a goal in the final third. Canada weren’t able to get forward often enough and turned the ball over in the midfield, thus allowing New Zealand to get going on a counter-attack play.

Sinclair had her volley saved by Nayler and subsequently tipped off the crossbar after both teams returned for the second half. New Zealand also came close to scoring thanks to an attempt from Hearn that almost found the net.
Canada had a lot more possession, urgency and shape in the second half.

The crossbar challenge was on full display once again in the 70th minute, when Sophie Schmidt had her free kick strike the bar. Each side was getting desperate in search of a goal and the possibility of all three points. Herdman quickly used all of his substitutions in a span of 10 minutes. Kaylyn Kyle, Carmelina Moscato, and Adriana Leon entered the match for Filigno, Sesselmann, and Scott.

The trio of changes helped Canada create more offense despite not scoring. Tancredi came in off the left flank and had a tremendous opportunity to blast the ball past Nayler, but the New Zealand keeper was once again up for the task and stopped Tancredi point-blank.

Canada can win the group with a win over the Netherlands on Monday, but Canada hasn’t scored from open play this tournament. The hosts will have to do better in Montreal next week and beyond if they are going to become a serious contender to win the World Cup.

Canada Starting XI: Erin McLeod; Allysha Chapman, Lauren Sesselmann (Carmelina Moscato 67), Kadeisha Buchanan, Josee Belanger; Jonelle Filigno (Kaylyn Kyle 63), Desiree Scott (Adriana Leon 74), Ashley Lawrence, Melissa Tancredi; Sophie Schmidt, Christine Sinclair(C). 4-4-2.

New Zealand Starting XI: Erin Nayler; Ria Percival, Katie Duncan, Abby Erceg(C), Rebekah Stott, Ali Riley, Amber Hearn, Sarah Gregorius (Rosie White 79) , Betsy Hassett (Katie Bowen 77), Annalie Longo, Hannah Wilkinson (Jasmine Pereira 89). (4-3-3)