VANCOUVER, B.C. – After thrashing Haiti 6-0 in their opening match of the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Team Canada played Cuba in their second “Group A” game last night at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver. On paper 96th ranked Cuba should have been over-matched and blown out, but that wasn’t the case. Canada only managed to score a pair of first half goals in a 2-0 win over Cuba. Coach John Herdman elected to completely change his starting lineup from the game on Thursday against Haiti. Only Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi, and Shannon Woeller started both games. New faces in Canada’s lineup versus Cuba included Alyscha Mottershead and Chelsea Buckland who were making their first career international starts for Canada.
Canada opened the scoring in the 17th minute thanks to a successful penalty by captain Christine Sinclair. Kaylyn Kyle dribbled through the Cuban defense before being tripped up. Sincy as her teammates call her, stepped up and scored to the delight of the crowd. Sinclair’s penalty kick was low to the right side of the net exactly where she converted a penalty against Haiti the game before. After the game Sinclair was not too concerned about goalkeepers writing a book on where she likes to shoot on penalties: “I just felt confident shooting where I chose to shoot. It’s just a matter of placing it. I expect goalkeepers to do their homework but it’s all about where the shooter places the ball.”
Canada’s second goal came in the 24th minute when playmaker Melissa Tancredi who usually sets up goals was on the receiving end of a beautiful pass from Christine Sinclair. Tancredi’s header went off Cuban goalkeeper Lucylena Martinez and into the net. Tancredi’s goal was her first of the tournament and her 15th career goal for Team Canada.
North Delta, BC, native Chelsea Buckland had a great game with family and friends in attendance. Buckland came close to scoring in the 35th minute when her shot hit the right post on a pass from Christine Sinclair. Buckland really played well with Sinclair and was a huge threat to score. Buckland who celebrated her 22nd birthday on Friday had this to say about the game: “Anything can happen in todays game I think we did pretty well. I’m pretty excited it was my first start for Team Canada. I was pretty excited to be able to play with one of the best in the world in Christine Sinclair. We started off strong and we scored two goals in the first half. It was satisfying for sure.”
Just before the second half started Abbotsford’s Sophie Schmidt came on for Christine Sinclair. Sinclair was seen on the sidelines icing her foot during the rest of the game. Sinclair finished with 1 goal, 1 assist, and 1 ice pack.
After being subbed on Sophie Schmidt immediately made things happen for Canada. Schmidt had a few glorious opportunities to put Canada ahead three or four nothing. In the 5oth minute Chelsea Buckland broke down the wing past her defender and centered the ball to Schmidt however Cuban goalkeeper Lucylena Martinez made a great save. Schmidt had another chance to score in the 64th minute but her shot rolled just wide of the net. Whenever Schmidt made a great play or did something special you could hear the boisterous fans known as the “Southsiders” chanting “Holy Schmidt” in her honour. Last night Schmidt played in her 26th consecutive game for Canada.
Canada made their second and third substitutions in the 58th and 60th minutes when Chelsea Stewart came on for fellow defender Melanie Booth and Kelly Parker came on for Chelsea Buckland.
Canada will play their third and final “Group A” game on Monday night at 7:30pm against 41st ranked Costa Rica. Costa Rica is undefeated after beating Haiti 2-0 earlier Saturday night. The winner of Canada and Costa Rica will finish first in the group and most likely avoid a semi-final game against the heavily stacked Team USA. With Canada already clinching a spot in the semi-finals next Friday Coach John Herdman wasn’t interested in looking ahead to a possible game against Team USA: “They’ll be a time when the US becomes a major focus. We’ve got a lot of footage on the US against prominent teams that you can really get a good solid analysis on. The Americans aren’t our focus at this point. We’ve got enough understanding of their new style their philosophy. Mexico is someone we’re keeping a very close eye on and the US is certainly someone we know a lot about.”
The announced crowd for the game was 12,417 which set a CONCACAF Tournament record for a game played in Canada. Vancouver soccer fans came to represent and you could tell all the players on Team Canada really appreciated all the signs, songs, and support they’ve received so far.
Notes: Canada officially had 26 attempts on goal, 14 shots on target, and 14 corners. Cuba had zero attempts, zero shots and no corners. Cuba will play Haiti on Monday night with no chance of advancement for either team.