A spirited display by the Canadian women wasn’t enough to overcome the defending World Cup champions in their opening match of the 2012 Olympic tournament.
- Memories of Canada’s poor start one year ago at the World Cup were fresh as they began group play against the most formidable team in their group. With that in mind, it was nice to see Canada use their physical advantage to start the match – winning challenges and keeping Japan’s attack minded players from sitting on the ball.
- However, Canada couldn’t keep this tempo up. Turning the ball over too easily created a change in momentum 25 minutes into the first half. Japan would make their breakthrough in the 33rd minute thanks to some world class skill from Shinobu Ohno, whose backheel pass to Nahomi Kawasumi resulted in the game’s opening goal. The Japanese were full credit for the goal, but poor defending from the Canadians in the box was equally to blame.
- Canada never lodged a real threat to the Japanese goal in the first half. Far too often desperate passes to Christine Sinclair would be easily intercepted. Canada’s talisman was playing on an island – lacking support from her central midfielders going forward.
- Japan would increase their lead in the dying moments of the second half thanks to a distarous decision by Canada’s goalkeeper. Rather than staying on her line, Erin McLeod challenged a cross in a scrum of players that resulted in a goal from a relatively harmless Aya Miyama header.
- The score line nearly read 3-0 in the early moments of the second half. An incredible effort by Lauren Sesselman kept the the deficit at two, after the defender cleared the ball off the line.
- Canada would parlay that narrow escape into a goal of their own in 55th minute. A great ball in from fullback Rhian Wilkinson was slotted home by Melisa Tancredi. We had a game on our hands.
- Unfortunately the Canadians were unable to muster much of a threat after the goal. Aside from a few promising runs from Sinclair, Canada’s attack was plagued by giveaways in their build up.
- Homare Sawa is a joy to watch. She is the power and glory of Women’s soccer – don’t miss a chance to watch her play.
- A dull end to the game was marked by a potentially devastating injury to Canadian center back Candace Chapman. The University of Notre Dame product was helped off the field as she clutched her hamstring. Canada’s lack of defensive depth will be a huge factor as the tournament goes on.
- A 2-1 loss to the World Champions isn’t a disaster. Though some troubling signs emerged – Sinclair’s lack of support and fitness issues – Canada can still progress to the Quarterfinals. Given Canada’s large size advantage, it was surprising to see them fail to attack the box through the air – something to keep an eye on going forward.
1. Nahomi Kawasumi
2. Rhian Wilkinson
3. Homare Sawa
Canada takes on South Africa – a must win game – in their next match on July 28th in Coventry.