Canada's Jessie Fleming celebrates with team mates after scoring her first goal against New Zealand in a 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Group E game at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble France on June 15, 2019.
Canada’s Christine Sinclair, left, and Desiree Scott, right, celebrate their 2-0 win over New Zealand at the 2019 Women’s World Cup at Stade des Alpes in Grenoble, France, on Saturday, June 15, 2019.
PARIS — Canada continues to break new ground at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup with every win.
With a 2-0 victory against New Zealand at the picturesque Stade des Alpes in Grenoble on Saturday, Canada qualified for the second round of the tournament. It’s the first time Canada has made it out of the group stage at a World Cup in Europe. It was also the first time Canada has defeated a continental champion at the event as New Zealand hold the Oceania crown.
Canada will finish its Group E play Thursday in Reims against the Netherlands, the reigning European champion. The game will determine first and second place in the group, with Canada needing a victory to clinch top spot as the teams are equal on goal differential, but the Netherlands have scored one more goal through their first two games.
The win against New Zealand was impressive for Canada, who dominated from start to finish. Here are three takeaways from the contest.
1. THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
The state of the Canadian women’s national team is in good hands when veterans likes Christine Sinclair, Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt and Allysha Chapman move on.
Jayde Riviere, an 18-year-old from Markham, Ont., made her World Cup debut and had an excellent contest at right back and then as a winger when Canada changed formation 15 minutes into the first half.
Riviere fit right in, making an excellent defensive play early on with a clearing header, and then creating all sorts of problems for New Zealand with impressive attacking runs down the right side.
Jessie Fleming, 21, was named player of the match, scoring Canada’s first goal and dictating play from her attacking midfield position.
Nichelle Prince, 24, set up Fleming’s goal and then scored her first World Cup goal to put the game out of reach. Prince displayed her blazing speed on the first goal, blowing by the New Zealand back line on a ball sent over the top by Janine Beckie, 24, who was a threat down the left side all evening.
“The goal was fast because Nichelle was breaking the line, she is pretty speedy, so I think when I saw that, I was just running as fast as I could to get in the box and, hopefully, get on the end of a cross,” Fleming said. “She placed it right on my foot and I was just trying to be in a good spot for her. I’m very excited to be able to score a goal and help my team win and be a part of this team and group of players and, hopefully, we’ll be able to continue that throughout the tournament.”
2. SINCLAIR STILL DANGEROUS
At 36, Christine Sinclair may not be the one-on-one threat she was in her prime, but the best player in Canadian soccer history and soon to be the most prolific international goal scorer in the history of the game is still a threat.
On another night, Sinclair could have scored three goals in the contest, hitting the crossbar, goalpost and getting just under a low cross into the box and skying it over the net.
Sinclair still attracts a lot of attention in opponent’s penalty areas, but has a way of finding those small pockets of space. Sinclair needs four goals to break the all-time scoring record – men and women – currently held by retired American striker Abby Wambach.
“If you went into the other locker room and looked at their tactics, I could imagine them saying; ‘By the way, don’t let Sincy get in on a cross,’ and they’re actually fulfilling that tactic until a certain point,” Canada head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said. “But then the rest of the players around her start creating chances, start getting on the ball, start getting into the penalty area and then they don’t take too much notice in her and then she’s lethal.
“She knows and we know that she’ll be the first player on the tactic boards from the other team and she will have a hard time, so we have to make sure the other players around her are creating things when they’re paying attention to Sincy. She definitely could have had a few goals (Saturday), but she worked hard for 90 minutes for this team, she’s a team player.”
3. DEFENCE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Outside of a hopeful cross into the area, which needed to be punched away, Canada goaltender Stephanie Labbe could have brought a lawn chair out to the field.
Labbe is among the best goalkeepers in the world, but it seems like a luxury playing in front of one of the best back lines in the tournament.
Canada switched from a four to a three defender system 15 minutes into the game and New Zealand were still unable to generate anything against Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky and Sophie Schmidt, who moved back allowing Ashley Lawrence to push into midfield.
Canada did not allow a shot on net in the contest where they had 70% of the possession and completed an outstanding 85% of their 615 passes attempted.
“I think our expectations are so super high, I’m very happy for the performance and I’m very happy for the win, but I know this team has a little bit more,” Heiner-Moller said. “It’s like if you’re hungry and you eat a little bit, but you’re still a little bit hungry. I know this team can do so much more, I know every time we have a bad pass, I know I’m almost kicking myself. But we performed very well, I’m very happy about this team performance, but I know we can do even better. We’re stepping up, we’re stepping in, but there is more to this team than what they showed (Saturday).”
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest
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