National Post (Latest Edition)

Canadian pull out last-minute victory

Women’s soccer team overcomes strong effort from argentina at shebelieve­s cup

- Derek Van Diest

Argentina set out to frustrate Canada in their second game at the Shebelieve­s Cup in Orlando, Fla., and succeeded for over 90 minutes.

Then two minutes into stoppage time, substitute Sarah Stratigaki­s poked the ball into the net off a wild scramble in front to give bev Priestman her first victory, 1-0, as Canadian head coach, and lift a heavy weight off the entire team.

The goal was the first for Stratigaki­s in her third senior internatio­nal game and gave Canada an opportunit­y to finish second in the tournament with their final game against brazil on Wednesday. The united States clinched top spot in the four-team tournament with a 2-0 victory against the brazil earlier in the day.

“I expected this. I had this in the World Cup against Argentina, they’re a tough team to break down,” Priestman said. “It wasn’t the perfect match and it definitely wasn’t the best match I’ve been involved with, but overall, the group found a way to win. I think that’s what good teams do and the second is that it’s a clean sheet (shutout), which we have to celebrate as well.”

Missing the greatest internatio­nal goal scorer of all time in Christine Sinclair, who is out injured, Canada found it difficult to break down a stubborn Argentine defence.

An eleventh-hour substitute at the tournament for Japan, who decided against making the trip to the united States due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina went out to defend and disrupt Canada at every opportunit­y. They did the job well, stopping the game as much as possible and delaying restarts however they could.

It was an expected tactic for a team with a storied history in the men’s game, but one still trying to find its footing in women’s soccer. The program had been all but shuttered a few years back, but returned in time to qualify for the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup and now it continues to grow.

Argentina opened the Shebelieve­s tournament with a 4-1 loss to brazil, and conclude the event against the united States.

“We usually play teams with different characteri­stics, especially when it comes to speed and physicalit­y,” said Argentina coach Carlos borrello. “We don’t have that ability, our ability is more with possession and passing the ball and we tried to do that. The reality is our rival plays the game very well and they don’t allow us to do that.

“We tried to combat that the best we could. I know the weapons I have at these moments and we want to prepare for the Copa America this coming year and playing a rival like this is good for us. This is good for our players to know what it’s like to play a world-class opponent like Canada and it’s good for us to get to play them. I want to keep playing teams like this, not teams that are ranked 60th or 70th, I think we get more out of this than that.”

As teams like Argentina continue to develop and walk on to the field with the intent of surviving against establishe­d opponents, Canada will need to work on games like this. They can be physically and mentally taxing, along with extremely frustratin­g, but ones good teams are able to overcome.

Canada is at the Shebelieve­s Cup as a lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics, and while things did not go as necessaril­y scripted, Argentina did provide some valuable lessons.

“Absolutely, I think it’s a sign of respect as well to us that we can play and they are going to be on their back foot,” said Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who wore the captain’s armband Sunday. “So kudos to Canada for doing well. but you do see it every now and then with a team like them, they’re good on the counter, they’re technical and they know they are going to sit back and make it very hard to break them down and that’s a challenge.

“We’re aware of it, it’s a tendency with some teams and I think we did a really good job of staying calm and not letting it get under our skin. but at the same time, if we can find a way to finish chances early in the game, then you don’t put yourself in that situation in the last 10, 15, 20 minutes of a game.”

Canada did have its chances earlier on, but after almost a year off, the shooting sights are not quite yet aligned.

Jessie Fleming had the best chance in the first half, but was unable to hit the target from in close. Canada squandered a handful of other opportunit­ies in the second half before Stratigaki­s scored on a wild sequence in front on a ball swung into the penalty area off a free kick.

evelyne Viens should have scored a second a couple of minutes later, but failed to hit the target on a wide open header in front of a cross from Janine beckie.

“There always in tough games and they feel in control, they’re waiting for you to give the ball away to counteratt­ack you,” Priestman said. “I put a lot of emphasis on that, because I knew it would be a sitting in, and waiting to break on us.

“It wasn’t the everything the players dreamed of, it wasn’t everything I dreamed of, but we found a way to win and that’s the most important thing.”

 ?? GREGG NEWTON / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? Canada’s Sarah Stratigaki­s nudges the ball past goalkeeper Solana Pereyra of Argentina for the game’s only goal at the Shebelieve­s Cup
tournament in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.
GREGG NEWTON / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Canada’s Sarah Stratigaki­s nudges the ball past goalkeeper Solana Pereyra of Argentina for the game’s only goal at the Shebelieve­s Cup tournament in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.

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