Starting a tournament against the defending World Cup champion is never an easy task. At the City of Coventry Stadium on Wednesday, Canada fell to Japan 2–1 as the London Olympics kicked off in women’s soccer.
The London Olympics women’s soccer tournament actually began two days before the official opening ceremony on Friday.
Canada gave up two first-half goals before getting one back early in the second half. They pressed for the equalizer but could not come up with it.
Japan deserved their two-goal lead after outplaying Canada in the first half. Their efforts paid off in the 33rd minute when Shinobu Ohno made a clever back-heel pass to Nahomi Kawasumi. Kawasumi then drove an accurate shot in to the far side of the netting past Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
Japan took advantage of a mistake by Canada when McLeod charged out to punch away a cross and missed. The cross found the head of Aya Miyama who deflected it into the open net. The goal came right at the end of the first half and was a big blow to Canada.
Melissa Tancredi, a veteran Canadian forward from Ancaster, Ontario, got Canada’s lone goal with a well-struck right-footer in the 55th minute.
Time to Deliver
Canada’s women’s national team is one of 12 teams at the London Olympics. Organized into three groups of four teams, the top two finishers from each group along with the two third-best teams make it to the quarterfinal knockout stage.
Canada (ranked No. 7) finds itself in arguably the “Group of Death” with 2011 World Cup champion Japan (ranked No. 3), Sweden (ranked No. 4), and unheralded South Africa (ranked No. 61).
Canada will next face South Africa in a must-win match on Saturday before facing Sweden on Tuesday to close out the round-robin. The first round will be completed on July 31 with the last set of round-robin matches. The final will be played Aug. 9 at Wembley Stadium.
Canada is coming off a disappointing 2011 World Cup. They began that tournament against the host nation and two-time defending champion Germany. Captain Christine Sinclair, 29, scored a memorable goal off a free kick late in the match but it was not enough to stop the Germans who won 2–1.
Canada didn’t respond well in the rest of the tournament, most notably with a 4–0 loss to France, and after a complete overhaul got back on track with Olympic qualification. Head coach John Herdman has had to just about start from scratch after the many questions being asked after the 2011 World Cup collapse.
But the quality in the squad is tangible. Sinclair is truly a national hero given that she’s been one of the very best women’s soccer players of all time. She has scored 137 goals (third most all-time) and played over 100 times for her country.
In addition, the diminutive Diana Matheson at five feet tall, who did not participate in Olympic qualifying due to a severe knee injury, had a very bright performance at the 2011 World Cup and is ready to be Canada’s creative force in midfield.
With Sinclair and Matheson, Canada has an experienced squad and there is no time like the present to win a medal and achieve the potential the team has shown in the past.
After a highly enjoyable 2011 World Cup, the world awaits more women’s soccer. The Olympic tournament promises more of the same action after a riveting day of action.
In 2015, Canada will host the next women’s World Cup.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports
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