Abbotsford product Sophie Schmidt and her Canadian cadre opened the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Saturday with a 1-nil win over China, helping the Canadians save face in a tough battle against an inexperienced Chinese side.
In front of a record-setting 53,000 spectators at Commonwealth Stadium on a sunny afternoon in Edmonton, the Canadians, who seemed anxious in the first few minutes, settled down with much of the play coming through Schmidt and Christine Sinclair within the first 30.
Slotting into the central midfield, Schmidt was the engine of the team, delivering sweeping balls into the box, most notably an early free kick that nearly turned into a goal off a glancing header.
It wasn’t until extra time when Sinclair edged the Canadians ahead by potting a penalty kick in the last minute of play.
Canada was also fortunate not to go down after a spectacular free kick hit by 23-year-old Chinese midfielder Wang Lisi beat Canadian keeper Erin McLeod, but the ball careened off two posts before flying out the other side of the box, leaving the score 0-0.
McLeod was honest about the team’s assessment.
“I think if you asked anyone on the team we’re not happy with how we played,” said McLeod, post-game. “I think we were nervous and we played like it.”
Uncharacteristic mistakes by the Canadians included the cough-ups of recently returned defender Lauren Sesselman who turned the ball over several times.
Canadian coach John Herdman had a slightly different perspective.
“China didn’t really hurt us – they hurt us through our own mistakes.
“It wasn’t necessarily nerves; it was just sloppiness across our back five, and we’ll improve on that,” said Herdman.
Group ‘A’ action pits Canada against New Zealand, tomorrow (Thursday) at 6 p.m.