Category Archives: International Friendlies

Canada Brings Home Pan American Gold

Mexsport; CSA

That title has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The Canadian Women’s National Team captured the top prize at the XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico by defeating Brazil in dramatic fashion. Following a come-from-behind 1-1 draw in regulation and a scoreless overtime, Canada struck gold with penalty kicks, 4-3.

Twenty year-old Debora opened the scoring just 4 minutes into the match. The Brazilian striker headed towards three Canadian defenders and was given an excess of space to dribble up field before unleashing a top corner beauty from outside the box.

Canada was able to stay in the game thanks to a series of critical saves by Karina LeBlanc, especially late in regulation time when Brazil began peppering the Canadian net. Brazil outshot Canada 22-13, while Canada maintained 57% of possession.

As the clock ticked away, it appeared that Brazil was on its way to claiming another PanAm gold medal. However, like the 2011 Women’s World Cup quarter-finals against the USA, Brazil was undone late in the game by an equalizer off a header. This time it was at the mercy of Christine Sinclair being her usual clutch self. Canada won a corner kick in the 88th minute and Diana Matheson sent in a perfectly struck ball. Sinclair circled around goalkeeper Barbara to head it in with ease and forced the game into overtime.

But 30 minutes was not enough to break the deadlock between the teams, so the dreaded, heart wrenching penalty kicks were to settle the score.

Matheson converted the first Canadian PK with confidence, as did Francielle for Brazil. Upon the second round, Barbara was in a rage when she got a glove on Sinclair’s shot, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out of the net. Maurine and Melanie Booth were both successful in their respective shots from the mark. Canada took the lead following Brazil’s third PK when Grazielle placed her attempt up the middle for an easy stop by LeBlanc. Sophie Schmidt put Canada ahead once again and Ketlen answered back. It was 4-3 heading into the fifth set of PKs; things got momentarily tense for Canada while Brazil saw a glimmer of hope when Candace Chapman’s strike rattled the right sided post. The next kicker, Debora, had an opportunity to play hero for Brazil once again if she could tie up the results, but LeBlanc guessed the right direction to make her second PK save and secure first place.

Watch highlights of the final, Canada vs. Brazil, Brazil’s medal ceremony, Canada celebrating the win and the gold medal ceremony.

The win marks Canada’s first PanAm gold in women’s soccer, and John Herdman’s first tournament win since taking over the team in September. Canada previusly claimed fourth (1999), second (2003) and third place (2007) since the sport was included in the PanAm Games 12 years earlier. Brazil had won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2007, and with the absence of any US team, it appeared to be theirs for the taking. Alas, it was yet another second place finish (see: the Women’s World Cup, Olympic Games and Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo).

2015 will be a marquee year for the Canadian Women’s National Team with the Women’s World Cup being staged across Canada from June 26-July 17 and PanAm Toronto July 10-26. The overlap makes it highly unlikely that the senior team will be able to defend their title as the reigning PanAm Women’s Soccer champions. But with that aside, the build up in the next 4 years will be exciting times for the sport in the country. Whether it’ll be about seeking World Cup redemption or potentially instilling confidence in our youth team to represent us at the PanAms in place of the full squad, it’s all taking place in Canada. There’s no better feeling than playing (and winning) on home soil, right?

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USWNT vs. CanWNT: Wambach & Morgan were Left Unmarked and Made Canada Pay

The United States concluded their post-2011 Women’s World Cup Celebration Series tour against Canada with a 3-0 victory. Both friendlies were played in front of incredible crowds; Megan Rapinoe joked earlier in the week that the fanfare has been like if the WWC runner-ups had actually won the title.  18,570 strong serenaded the team with chants of “U-S-A” at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon, as did 16,191 at the first friendly in Kansas City, Kansas last Saturday (1-1 draw).

Similar to the previous game, the USWNT lined up in a new 4-2-3-1. As promised, Pia Sundhage featured all 21 players over the two friendlies, a full strength roster from the WWC. Notably in the starting XI, the experiment with Amy Rodriguez as a left winger continued, while Shannon Boxx and Lori Lindsey replaced Carli Lloyd and Lauren Cheney as holding midfielders. Stephanie Cox stepped in for Amy LePeilbet and Becky Sauerbrunn slide over from her usual role in central defence to the outside right.

John Herdman, who is playing without two of Canada’s regular starters Christine Sinclair and Candace Chapman, switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 and made two changes to his starting lineup from the first friendly, with Lexi Marton in place of Emily Zurrer and Karina LeBlanc in goal for Erin McLeod. Herdman’s fourth ‘keeper, 22 year-old Justine Bernier, was the only one of the 22 player roster not to see playing time. New talent was introduced as three players received their first senior caps during the two friendlies.

The US peppered the Canadian 18-yard box with dangerous crosses and well paced shots throughout the match, but were upstaged by great Canadian goalkeeping from Karina LeBlanc in the first half and Stephanie Labbé in the second.

Canada was kept deep on defensive duties for much of the game, but Melissa Tancredi got an early opportunity when she fended off a couple defenders before sending the ball over the net.

LeBlanc made her first of several great saves in the 17th minute. Abby Wambach started the play when she blocked Sophie Schmidt’s cross, which fell to Rapinoe. She was able to advance the ball up field before laying it off to Wambach, whose ensuing cross was met by an unmarked Rodriguez.  Her side-footed shot from point blank range was denied by a one-handed save.

About 10 minutes later, Heather O’Reilly led the charge forward when she beat Diana Matheson to send in a cross. Lauren Sesselmann was in a great position to block Christie Rampone’s initial shot. Her far post rebound was grabbed in the air by LeBlanc, who then sparked the Canadian attack with her goal kick. The bouncing ball eluded Rachel Buehler and fell favourably for Tancredi. Her header into space allowed her to turn and shoot, but the low bouncing ball went just wide to the right of Hope Solo.

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The USWNT & CanWNT Battled in a Scrappy 1-1 Draw

The first of the two-game friendly series between the United States and Canada resulted in a 1-1 draw in front of a near capacity crowd of 16,191 packed into Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Boisterous fans created a lively atmosphere to welcome home their Women’s World Cup heroes, whose performance in this summer’s tournament ignited interest all over the US. Of the three friendlies played at home in 2011 prior to the WWC, two took place in comparatively large stadiums, like Red Bull Arena (25,000 capacity) and Columbus Crew Stadium (20,000 capacity), but had only managed to draw attendance merely in the 5,000s.

The situation for both teams couldn’t be more different: the USWNT was playing with the exact same group who recently propelled themselves to newfound celebrity status, and a coach whose unwavering loyalty to a particular formation and players have drawn cries for change and ingenuity from fans and commentators alike; in contrast, the CanWNT was playing under a new coaching staff following a sorrowful WWC with new players and new tactics.

September 17 was to be a battle of old and new. Yet, surprisingly, both teams stepped onto the pitch to test new strategies.

Pia Sundhage implemented a 4-2-3-1 for the match, a departure from her favoured 4-4-2.  The USWNT coach expressed her hopes of adding another dimension of unpredictability to the attack. Sundhage experimented by moving Lauren Cheney and Carli Lloyd, both of whom normally occupy more offensive roles, back to act as deep-lying midfielders. She was quick to point out that the pair would be “possession midfielders” as opposed to holding midfielders. Still in search for the team’s true No. 10, the Swede had Megan Rapinoe assume that role in the starting XI. The new formation was to emphasize play in the centre of midfield, but the US still found the most success attacking from the wings, especially in the first half.

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CanWNT Roster vs. USWNT & News on PanAm, CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifiers, SportsNet

John Herdman will make his Canadian Women’s National Team coaching debut against the team’s most formidable rival, the USA. “It is a derby, so it is always a massive match,” said the 36 year-old coach.

The first match up takes place today, September 17, at Livestrong Sporting Park, home to MLS’ Sporting Kansas City in Kansas City, Kansas live on Fox Soccer Channel (7pm ET, 4pm PT). They face off again on Thursday, September 22 in Portland, Oregon at the Portland Timber’s Jeld-Wen Field live on ESPN2 and ESPN3 (11pm ET, 8pm PT).

Preparation for the two friendlies mark the first time both teams have regrouped since their polarizing results at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany. The USWNT (World No. 1) bounced back from its pre-tournament woes to play thrilling matches against Brazil in the quarter-finals and the eventual champions, Japan, in the final.

The “Celebration Series” tour features players exclusively from this summer’s WWC roster. Midfielder Shannon Boxx is expected to miss today’s game due to family commitments, but will be available for Thursday’s friendly. Despite goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart being seen wearing a medical boot recently, she appears to be training with the team.

Canada (ranked No. 8), on the other hand, is in a rebuilding process following its shocking last place finish at the WWC. The sudden resignation of then head coach Carolina Morace and her staff in July, which included assistant coach and former CanWNT midfielder and captain Andrea Neil, left the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) with little time to find a replacement before the 2011 Pan American Games in October and 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers in January.

Herdman, who was born in England, was announced as the new Canadian head coach in early September. He previously spent 10 years working in New Zealand, with five years as the Women’s head coach and technical director, leading the Football Ferns to the 2007 and 2011 WWC, as well as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and propelling them to No. 24 in the world.

Herdman got his first opportunity to reinvigorate the CanWNT, meet players and assess new talent when he named a 22-player roster for the 10 day camp, which includes 15 players who recently competed at this summer’s WWC.

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Morace Resigns as Canadian Head Coach Following Disastrous WWC

Good news? Bad news?
Head coach Carolina Morace and her staff, including assistant coach and former Canadian national team midfielder Andrea Neil, resigned Wednesday, July 20 during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 debriefing and analysis meeting with the Canadian Soccer Association and other stakeholders.

Under Morace’s guidance since February 2009, Canada rose to their highest ever ranking of 6th in the world, all while claiming first place trophies at the Cyprus Cup (twice), the Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo (Four Nations Tournament in Brazil) and the 2010 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and defeating quality opponents like England and Sweden.

Ben Rycroft of It’s Called Football points out that between January 1, 2009 and June 25, 2011, Canada played more matches than Brazil, France, Germany, Japan and USA. Additionally, the team spent 114 days of 2011 training overseas in various camps.

Based on these results and preparations, Big Red headed into the WWC seemingly poised to capture its best ever results, even medal.

As it turned out, the team gravely fell short of expectations, losing all three games and failing to advance past the group stage for the fourth time. Canada’s best result at the WWC was in 2003 when they upset China in the quarter-finals and eventually placed fourth overall.

After a closely fought 2-1 match against Germany that featured a stunning free kick goal by Christine Sinclair that snapped the host’s 622-minute WWC shutout streak, Canada lost its composure and was hounded by France 4-0, and fell 1-0 to Nigeria. Canada finished last in the 16-team tournament and registered three shots on goal.

Since the loss to France, murmurings began to circulate of Morace potentially stepping down, but she bluntly stated, “Yes, I want to continue,” following the match against Nigeria.

All else indicated that Morace would remain as head coach. The Globe and Mail‘s Stephen Brunt said of the dynamic between Morace and the CSA, “This is a very tense relationship. It’s a bad marriage at this point, or at least a very fractious marriage, but it is going to continue.”

With Morace’s sudden resignation last week, CSA General Secretary Peter Montopoli told The Canadian Press, “Yes, I would say we were surprised.”

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Pictures from the Canada vs. China Friendly

To conclude our coverage of Canada’s September 30th friendly against China, here are some pictures from that night. Hope everyone enjoyed the reports and interviews! Keep coming back to AWK for the latest news and discussions on women’s soccer from around the globe. Thanks for reading!

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Post-Match: Canada vs. China

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

On September 30 at BMO Field, Canada’s 3-1 victory over China was a promising display of what Carolina Morace’s team is capable of executing. The long ball game and rigid player roles of Even Pellerud and Canada’s past were replaced by a free flowing squad who held possession with quick passes and attacked aggressively.

Lining up in a 4-3-3, Canada didn’t hesitate to test China’s backline right from the get-go. Just 6 seconds into the game, forward Josée Bélanger got into the final third to set up Kaylyn Kyle, but Kyle’s chip bounced harmlessly into the box.

In the 2nd minute of play, Bélanger hustled down the right wing again and won a corner kick after the ball deflected off a Chinese defender. Diana Matheson served a high arching ball into the box that Christine Sinclair headed on target, but was cleared out of bounds by #2 Liu Huana on the near post.

Canada’s second ensuing corner kick turned into China’s advantage instead. After pinging around in the air, a heavy touch by Marie-Even Nault allowed China to play a 20 yard through ball to an unmarked #8 Xu Yuan for a breakaway opportunity. The Canadians were caught playing a high defensive line and could only retreat as they watched Karina LeBlanc tip the shot over the bar.

China’s first corner kick of the match in the 4th minute was played short, and Bélanger was there to intercept. It was difficult for China to gain any sort of rhythm with Canada constantly stepping in to challenge their passes. Kyle was a bully in the midfield and had a great sequence early on in the game with about 4 or 5 interceptions in the span of a minute, all on different parts of the pitch.

The Canadian defence had their fair share of interceptions as well. At one point, Candace Chapman stepped high in the midfield to cut off a through ball, and Carmelina Moscato‘s pass sparked an attack with Matheson and Melissa Tancredi playing one touch passes to one another to advance the ball while making good use of space. This was one of Canada’s many attacks throughout the night that displayed the possession-oriented and quick passing style that Morace has been trying to implement since taking over the team in early 2009.

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Thoughts on the United States' 2-1 Victory Over China

Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe Was Sensational for the U.S. in Saturday's Win

The Good

-The Real Megan Rapinoe was on the pitch in Atlanta on Saturday night. Chicago Red Stars fans are probably cursing their fate as the jaded and inconsistent player of WPS form was nowhere in sight on Saturday. This Rapinoe was a constant terror down the left (or right when she switched flanks with HAO), making surging runs down the flank or cutting inside while also defending well from the front, forcing some of the Chinese defenders into mistakes. Rapinoe took her goal well to give the U.S the early lead and had an opportunity to add a second in the second half that was kicked away by Chinese keeper Huang Luna.
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Canada vs. China: Match Preview and Notes

(Scroll to the bottom of this post for some exciting news)

Canada is facing China tonight at BMO Field in Toronto. The match kicks off at 7:30 EST/4:30 PST and will be broadcasted live on Rogers Sportsnet East and Rogers Sportsnet Ontario.

This is a rare opportunity to play at home. Prior to 2008, Canada didn’t play a home game in over two years. Since then, one home game a year has been the norm, all of which have been held at BMO Field.

China has brought a really young team to face Canada and the US. 11 of the 23 players are from the 2006 U-20 WWC Russia and/or Thailand 2004, winning silver at both tournaments. That means that about half of the team was born on or after 1985. (I’ll give you better stats in another post). Veterans Bi Yan and Han Duan did not make the trip due to injuries.

The team is being revamped after a disappointing result at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup that meant China failed to qualify for the Women’s World Cup for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1991. Shang Ruihua took over as the head coach in 2008 after the team’s rocky relationship with Frenchwoman Elisabeth Loisel (2007-2008). Shang was replaced by Li Xiaopeng (not that Captain Obvious should butt in, but it’s the footballer Li Xiaopeng and not the gymnast, although that would be interesting =)) earlier this summer. Li is a former defensive midfielder for the Chinese National Team, and made a rare World Cup appearance in 2002.

Canada has been training since camp opened in Rome on August 25. After winning two exhibition games against Italian club teams in early September, Canada lost 5-0 to Germany in front of a raucous crowd of 20,431 in Dresden. The team relocated to Alliston, Ontario for more training on September 21 and played a closed door scrimmage on the 26th against China with a 1-1 result.

Following tonight’s match, China will face the USWNT in Kennesaw, Georgia October 2 at Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium and in Chester, Pennsylvania October 6 at PPL Park. China is preparing for the 16th Annual Asian Games in November and is targeting a gold medal finish. Canada will return to training after a short break. Camp will resume at Nottawasaga Inn & Resort in Alliston, Ontario on October 4 and go until the 14. They will have open training sessions, so both fans and media are invited to attend. Continue reading

International Update For September 15, 2010

France and Norway become the first European countries to join hosts Germany in the 2011 Women’s World Cup. Las Bleues top off their perfect qualifying run with a hard-earned victory over Italy while Norway eased passed challengers Ukraine. Elsewhere, Germany put the hurt on Canada, scoring four unanswered goals in the second half.

 

Italy 2, France 3

France and Italy entered the game on equal footing, as the pair had drawn 0-0 in the first leg. Italy took the initiative first as Patrizia Panico scored off a headed shot in the 34′ to make it 1-0. The French were forced to play from behind but it mattered little. Elise Bussaglia sent the game level in the 53′ courtesy of a well-placed shot. France claimed the lead just five minutes later as France’s top goal-scorer during qualifying Gaetane Thiney coverted a chance from the right wing. France put it to bed in stoppage time as Sonia Bompastor directed in a lovely free kick but Italy were not to be silenced, as Giulia Domenichetti scored off a long-range effort a minute later. The score ended 3-2 and France are through to their second Women’s World Cup and their first since 2003.

 

Ukraine 0, Norway 2

The final play-off game of the day was not to be as suspenseful as Norway ploughed through Ukraine in Bekkestua. Norway advances with an aggregate score of 3-0. Cecile Pedersen took advantage of a goalkeeping error and scored in the 6′. Norway controlled play for the rest of the match and perhaps could have scored more by the time Solveig Gulbrandsen curled in a goal in the 86′.

 

Italy and Ukraine will now meet in the UEFA-CONCACAF play-offs. Italy will host the first match on October 2/3 while Ukraine will entertain the second match on October 6/7. The winner will play one more European team en route to the play-off with a CONCACAF team.

 

Tomorrow Sweden will take a 2-1 lead to Denmark while England travel to Switzerland with a 2-0 advantage.

 

Germany 5, Canada 0

Germany’s senior side evidently got into the spirit exhibited by its U-20’s and U-17’s and routed its competition. Canada self-destructed early on after defender Emily Zurrer gave away a penalty in the 2′. Inka Grings coolly converted the effort. Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc had a fine 43 minutes in the net thereafter and kept the score line respectable.

It would be a different story in the second half, however, as Germany unleashed quite a beating. Fatmire (Lira) Bajramaj beat a worn Canadian defense in the 54′ and sank her shot into the left corner. Alexandra Popp then scored off a diving header off a Melanie Behringer cross in the 74′ . Behringer took advantage of a shattered LeBlanc and added to the lead minutes later. (Canadian news sources seem to attribute both goals to Behringer which is a real shame because Popp’s goal was absolutely magnificent.) Celia Okoyino da Mbabi – who was coming fresh off a three goal performance for her club team Bad Neuenahr on the weekend – made it 5-0 in the 82′ with a shot that kinda looked like a cross but found its way into the back of the net.

20,431 filled the 27,190 capacity Rudolf-Harbig Stadion in Dresden. Germany will face Australia on October 28 in Wolfsburg while Canada will host China in Toronto on September 30.

Here you’ll find the long highlights of the match. The stadium looks brilliant.