Olympics – Matchday 2: What We Learned – Canada 3:0 South Africa

Canada, with plenty on the line after last year’s World Cup failures, got an early goal from Melissa Tancredi, and was able to breathe easy for a while, but South Africa made things difficult for a long time, including late in the first half allowed Banyana Banyana to hit the crossbar. As South Africa tired, Christine Sinclair brought order to the proceedings and eventually Canada had a relatively comfortable 3-0 win. Canada still has questions, but the mission for the day was to put themselves in position to advance, and unless they get blown out by Sweden, they should live to see the quarterfinals. Mission accomplished.

1) It’s hard to root against Christine Sinclair

It was painful to watch Sinclair as Canada foundered and sunk in last year’s World Cup, especially in that last game against Nigeria. Now with 139 international goals and with controversy abound elsewhere in women’s soccer, you could just see the relief on Sinclair’s face when she scored her first goal and the pure happiness when she scored her second. I still don’t like Canada’s chances, but Sinclair deserves to be mentioned with the world’s greatest (and the stats back that up).

2) The outside backs are the key for Canada offensively

It wasn’t a coincidence that when Canada looked their best (including a couple of the goals) it was Rhian Wilkinson and Lauren Sesselmann getting service in from their outside back spots. John Herdman just doesn’t have too many creative options at his disposal right now (and he has injuries to deal with on defense), so Wilkinson and Sesselmann have to be the ones to help. The problem is: are they going to be able to do that against Sweden (their next opponent) or in the quarterfinals against Brazil or Great Britain? Going to be a lot tougher.

3) Hopefully there are brighter days for African teams

South African coach Mkhonza Mkhonzana said after the game that “the stage is too big for us”, and he’s probably right, although his team did manage 14 shots and on another day might have gotten a little more lucky. You hope going forward that we’ll be able to see some lower teams (as Nigeria did a little at the World Cup) step up and get some results. You saw Portia Modise play pretty well and captain Amanda Dlamini show some things, but I think South Africa is going to be in trouble against Japan, even if they are resting people (which they might not).

BONUS

Possession

Canada wins 58-42, which seemed about right.

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