Canada holds its own against soccer’s world champions

Melissa Tancredi (Photo: Soccer Canada)

Ancaster native Melissa Tancredi scored Canada’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Japan at the opening of competition at the London 2012 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament on Wednesday (July 25).

After opening day games, Canada was in third place in Group F with its next game set for Saturday against South Africa and Tuesday (July 31) against Sweden.

Japan is the Women’s World Cup champion. In the other game, Sweden won 3-0 over South Africa. From 12 international teams, the top two teams from all three groups plus the two best third-place teams will qualify for the quarter-final phase.

“You look at every one of our players tonight, there wasn’t one ounce of ‘Canadian’ left out there,” said head coach John Herdman. “They matched the world champions for periods – both defensively and in moments of attack.”

Japan scored twice before Canada replied in the second half on the Tancredi goal. Both Diana Matheson and Rhian Wilkinson were involved in the offensive push that led to the goal.

In the opening 20 minutes of the match, Canada contained the defending FIFA champions but Japan eventually broke down the Canadians and opened the scoring with a beautiful goal.

In the 33rd minute, FIFA World Player of the Year, Homare Sawa, lofted a perfect chip into Shinobu Ohno. Ohno waited on the right side before knocking a tricky back-heel into the path of Nahomi Kawasumi and her tight-angle shot beat the onrushing Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod.

Japan capitalized on some miscommunication in the 44th minute as McLeod came out to claim a ball but was unlucky to collide with one of her defenders and Aya Miyama headed the ball in.

In the second half, Yuki Ogimi could have given Japan a third goal in the 51st minute. Ogimi had a wide open net but defender Lauren Sesselmann scrambled back to clear the shot off the line.

Just four minutes later, defender Wilkinson led an attack up the right side for Canada. Tancredi timed her run well and held off a Japanese defender and got her right foot to Wilkinson’s cross and steered the ball home with her right foot.
Canada had to play the final five minutes a player short as an injured Candace Chapman had to be helped off the field. As they had already used their three allotted substitutes, Canada couldn’t bring on another player.

Canada had a starting 11 of Erin McLeod in goal with Wilkinson, Chapman, Carmelina Moscato and Sesselmann on defence. Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Kaylyn Kyle, Tancredi and Christine Sinclair made up the midfield through the attack.

In the second half, Herdman replaced Sesselmann with Chelsea Stewart (70), Wilkinson with Robyn Gayle (71’) and Kyle with Kelly Parker (76’).