As two of the three teams in Group F ranked in the top ten of FIFA’s world rankings, Canada and Australia were expected to put together an entertaining match in the group stage opener for both Wednesday afternoon. And that was the case, with Canada winning 2-0 despite being down to ten women for nearly 70 minutes of the match. The Canadians remained strong defensively, and they took advantage of two major mistakes made by Australia to tally both of their goals.
The first Australian error occurred in the game’s first minute, as Christine Sinclair was able to pick the pocket of an Aussie defender who made a lazy on her back line. After taking the ball Sinclair found Janine Beckie, who calmly deposited the ball into the net to give Canada a 1-0 lead just 20 seconds into the match. Beckie’s goal, scored in her Olympic debut, is the fastest ever scored in the history of Olympic soccer both men’s and women’s. The goal provided John Herdman’s side with some positive momentum, which they appeared poised to lose just 19 minutes later.
Defender Shalena Zadorsky was sent off in the 19th minute after bringing down Australia’s Michelle Heyman in what was rightfully deemed to be the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity just outside of the penalty area. Australia was unable to take advantage of the resulting free kick, and that proved to be a theme of sorts for them as Canada managed to thwart multiple scoring chances for the Matildas.
Canada appeared poised to take a 2-0 lead in the 73rd minute as they were awarded a penalty for an Australian handball in the penalty area, a decision that appeared to be a bit harsh on the replay. Beckie’s penalty was saved by Australian keeper Lydia Williams, who lucked out four minutes later when a shot that trickled through her legs was cleared off the line by a teammate. Williams wasn’t as fortunate int he 80th minute however, as her misplaying of a long ball sent to Christine Sinclair resulted in Canada scoring the second goal they were looking for on the counter attack.
With Canada playing a long ball to Sinclair, Williams took the risk of running well off her line in an attempt to clear the ball. But far away from her goal Williams missed, leaving Sinclair to calmly put the match out of reach with an Australian defender unable to apply the pressure needed to keep a scorer of Sinclair’s caliber off the score sheet. Sinclair’s goal is the 163rd of her international career, placing her 21 behind Abby Wambach on the all-time list.
Next up for Canada (1-0-0; 3 points) is a matchup with Zimbabwe Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, while Australia (0-0-1; 0 points) will take on Germany Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.