June 21st, 2024

Canadian women pay for defensive errors in 3-0 loss to Japan at SheBelieves Cup

By The Canadian Press on February 22, 2023.

Japan forward Rikako Kobayashi (11) goes for the header against Canada defenders Ashley Lawrence (10) and Julia Grosso ( 7) during the first half in a SheBelieves Cup soccer match in Frisco, Texas, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-LM Otero

FRISCO, Texas – Canada, paying for defensive errors, lost 3-0 to Japan in its final outing at the SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday.

Playing under the cloud of a labour dispute with Canada Soccer, the sixth-ranked Canadian women finished 1-2-0 at the four-team tournament. It was a disappointing finale with Canada conceding three goals for the first time since a 3-0 loss to the U.S. in the final of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship in February 2020.

After an even start to the game, the 11th-ranked Japanese – also 1-2-0 – began to take control midway through the first half.

Kiko Seike opened the scoring in the 26th minute, tucking the ball under goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo after a Rikako Kobayashi pass found the Canadian defence wanting with centre back Shelina Zadorsky caught out of position. It was Japan’s first goal of the tournament.

D’Angelo was hurt on the play, colliding with Seiko going for the ball. She had to be helped off the field, not putting weight on her right leg. Kailen Sheridan, who started the first two games of the tournament, came on in relief.

Yui Hasegawa made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 41st minute after Jun Endo nutmegged Kadeisha Buchanan and was taken down by the Canadian defender at the goal-line edge of the penalty box.

Canada was compromised again in the 77th minute when an unmarked Endo took a feed from Hinata Miyazawa and beat a defenceless Sheridan with a powerful shot from close-range. Japan came close to making it 4-0 in the 90th minute with the Canada defence caught short one more time.

The Canadians entered play Wednesday in second place in the tournament standings, above Brazil on goal difference.

The U.S. played Brazil in the nightcap at Toyota Stadium, needing a win or a draw to win the tournament for a fourth consecutive year and the sixth time overall.

Canada rebounded from a flat performance in a 2-0 loss to the top-ranked U.S. in Orlando last Thursday to defeat No. 9 Brazil 2-0 in Nashville on Sunday.

Japan lost 1-0 to both Brazil and the U.S. But it looked confident and composed against Canada, stroking the ball around the field.

Canada’s all-time record against Japan dropped to 4-8-4.

The Canadian women played the tournament under protest – and the threat of legal action from Canada Soccer after briefly downing tools over their labour impasse with the governing body.

As throughout the tournament, they wore their training tops inside-out during warmups to hide the Canada Soccer crest and purple T-shirts, symbolizing gender equality, etched with the words “Enough is Enough” during the anthems. Players from both teams wore purple tape on their wrist.

And once again the entire Canadian squad posed for the pre-match photo, rather than just the starting 11. It was 26 degrees Celsius at the mid-afternoon kickoff some 45 kilometres north of Dallas.

The Canadian women want the same backing and preparation ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as the men did before Qatar. Both women’s and men’s teams also want Canada Soccer to open its books and to explain why their programs are being cut in 2023.

Canada coach Bev Priestman made five changes to her starting lineup with captain Christine Sinclair, Evelyne Viens, Cloe Lacasse, Zadorsky and D’Angelo slotting in. For Sinclair, it was cap No. 322.

After a pretty even start, the first real scoring chance came in the 15th minute when Lacasse drove at the Japan penalty box and sent a shot just wide of the far post.

Japan goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita fumbled Jessie Fleming’s corner in the 24th minute but managed to retrieve the ball before any damage was done.

Janine Beckie came close in the 35th minute, deflecting a Lacasse cross just wide before the assistant referee’s flag came up for offside.

Japan almost made it 3-0 near halftime when Sheridan misplayed a low cross. Miyazawa took a swipe at the ball but could not score.

Priestman sent on forwards Adriana Leon and Jordyn Huitema and defender Gabby Carle to start the second half in place of Sinclair, Viens and Jade Rose.

Beckie sprayed a low cross in front of the Japan goal in the 51st minute but could not find a teammate.

Sophie Schmidt came on in the 55th minute for her 220th cap. Clarissa Larisey followed in the 68th minute, replacing Fleming who was making her 100th start for Canada (and 114th appearance).

Miyazawa had a chance to make it 3-0 in the 57th minute, taking a pass behind the Canadian defence and rounding past Sheridan. But defender Ashley Lawrence got back to block Miyazawa’s shot at the goalpost.

Japanese substitute Aoba Fujino just missed with a shot in the 72nd minute as the Canadian defence was exposed once again.

Wednesday marked the first time meeting between the two since a 1-1 tie in Canada’s tournament opener at the Tokyo Olympics in July 2021. Japan made it to the quarterfinals in Tokyo before losing 2-1 to Sweden, which lost a penalty shootout to Canada in the final.

Priestman used six of the same starters Wednesday from the game against Japan in Tokyo.

Barring further job action, the Canadians’ next outing is scheduled for April 11 against No. 5 France in Le Mans during the April FIFA international window.

The Canadians, who were without the injured Nichelle Prince, Jayde Riviere, Deanne Rose and Desiree Scott, were making their second appearance in the SheBelieves Cup after finishing third in 2021 in Priestman’s debut as coach.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2023.

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