Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team picked up a big 2-1 win over Chile on Saturday, thanks to a key brace from Janine Beckie. Here’s what stood out to us from that one.
Facing what was essentially a must-win game, it was a nice bounce-back performance.
Having tied Japan in their opening game of the 2021 Summer Olympics Soccer Tournament, Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team’s Group E clash with Chile on Saturday morning was a big one, as a win would put them in a great position ahead of their last group stage game, coming against a solid Great Britain team, one who’s been rolling with 2 wins from their first 2 games.
So to see them then come out and pick up a 2-1 win over Chile was good to see, as Bev Priestman’s side managed to just hold off a resilient Chilean side, one that nearly came back from down 2-0 to snatch back a point.
Had they dropped points against Chile, they would’ve needed to get a win against Great Britain to have a chance of progressing from their group, but with 4 points in their bag now, they can guarantee progression to the knockout stages as one of the top 2 teams in Group E with a draw or win on Tuesday, and should still get through as one of the 2 third-placed teams with a loss.
Obviously, the goal now for Canada is to win that Great Britain game, guaranteeing progression to the knockout stages as a group winner, theoretically giving themselves a more favourable path to the final, but just getting out of the group in any way possible was always going to be the main goal, so it’s nice to see them all but wrap that up on Saturday.
Despite what the result might suggest, though, it was far from an easy game, as Chile gave them everything they had to offer.
Canada came out flying, as Janine Beckie overcame an early penalty miss to score a brace by the 46th minute, putting her team 2-0 up with 45 minutes to go. From there, though, Chile quietly crawled back into the game, scoring a 57th-minute penalty to make the score 2-1, and they then came close to equalizing on a few occasions, even hitting the crossbar with around 15 minutes to go.
But having given up a 1-0 lead late against Japan, Canada avoided the same mistake against Chile, holding strong right to the very end, picking up all 3 points.
Thanks to that, they’ve given themselves a little breathing room ahead of their clash with Great Britain on Tuesday, a game they’ll believe that they can win, having beaten England, who this GB team is majoritarily composed of, earlier this year.
Until then, though, Canada will have plenty to ponder from this Chilean clash, one in which they showed good resilience in order to complete the task at hand.
Here is some of what stood out from that one.
Beckie’s bounce back:
And to start, it’s important to highlight Beckie’s efforts in Canada’s win, as she picked up a huge brace, scoring her 4th and 5th Olympic goals for Canada.
After a game versus Japan where she wasn’t up to her usual lofty standards, one had to wonder what version of Beckie would show up for Canada against Chile, helping quiet the outside doubts that this Canadian team is over-reliant on their captain, Christine Sinclair, who scored Canada’s lone tally against Japan, for goals.
But despite her brace, though, the game didn’t actually start out too favourably for Beckie, who actually had a chance to put her team up in the 20th minute, after Sinclair had done well to win a foul inside the box.
Usually Canada’s penalty taker, Sinclair was too banged up to take it, so Beckie stepped up to do so, but unfortunately for her, her penalty would strike the outside of the post and roll out, giving Chile an early break.
For those who’d seen Canada’s 1-0 loss to Sweden in the 2019 World Cup Round of 16, where Beckie had a penalty saved with a chance to tie up that game, it brought back painful memories, leaving some to doubt Beckie’s capacity.
That didn’t faze Beckie, though, who then showed why she’s one of Canada’s most important players, first scoring a lovely curled goal from just inside the box for her team’s opener, before doing well to round Chile’s Christiane Endler on a breakaway for the 2nd.
More importantly, what stood out from the goals was her leadership, as instead of celebrating the goals, she used them as a chance to pass instruction and words of praise to her teammates, showing why she’s one of the leaders of this Canadian team.
A big penalty miss like that can sometimes drag down a player, no matter how talented they are, but it didn’t stop Beckie from both stepping up and producing, giving a performance that will be remembered for years to come.
There’s a reason she’s quietly been one of Canada’s biggest offensive producers these last few years, despite often being the most (unfairly) criticized of her teammates, as she knows how to quiet out the noise and get down to business.
This was another example of that, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Canada, giving them the important 3 points.
Grosso’s bright Olympic debut:
Otherwise, another standout performance for Canada came from midfielder Julia Grosso, who at just 20 years of age, made her Olympic debut on Saturday.
With 24 caps already to her name, she’s slowly been getting integrated into this Canadian squad the past few years, making the 2019 World Cup squad, but she’d been yet to really break through as a starter despite her immense potential.
So heading into this tournament, it was a surprise to see her named to Canada’s original 18-player squad (which was later amended to 22), because although she’s a very talented player, she’s only had flashes of minutes here and there to show it for her country.
Because of that, it was a nice surprise to see her earn a start versus Chile, as one could only wonder what sort of impact a young player like her could bring in a game of this magnitude.
And the answer is quite the big one, actually as she was fantastic in her role as a #8, proving to be a big catalyst in her team’s offensive play.
Throughout her 60 minutes on the pitch, she hardly misplaced a pass, as she was both efficient and progressive with her passing, helping kickstart several offensive moves.
For a Canadian team that has often lacked consistent ball progression through the midfield, it was great to see, as despite long being touted as someone for the future, she showed that she’s actually a lot more ready for the present than people realize.
That’s good for Priestman, who all of a sudden has options in midfield. At the beginning of the year, it was the young Jessie Fleming, along with the two veterans, Sophie Schmidt and Desiree Scott, and that was pretty much it, other than the option of moving Ashley Lawrence from full back to the midfield, leaving some to wonder where Canada’s midfield depth for both now and the future would come from.
So to first see Quinn emerge as a legitimate midfield option was great, as they proved to be a very capable option as both a #8 and #6, but despite that, one had to wonder if Canada still had enough depth at the position.
If Grosso can keep playing like that, though, that conversation will quickly become irrelevant, as she showed that Canada actually has more depth at the position than they might’ve realized, giving them both cover and options in the middle, if needed.
Grinding it out:
Shifting away from the individual performances, however, it’s important to point out Canada’s ability in closing out the game, as despite the late close call, they did well to hold on and keep all 3 points.
After dropping 2 points in the 85th minute against Japan, one had to fear the worst as Chile started a late push, but Canada held strong to the onslaught, before doing well to kill out the game right at the end.
Some might wonder – why is it a big deal that Canada closed out a game against a team ranked 37th in the world?
It’s a valid question, but this Chilean side is much better than what their rank suggests, and in these sorts of tournaments, anything can happen in these kinds of matches.
So to see Canada step up and learn from their previous mistake is huge, as that sort of self-learning can go a long way in a tournament.
With so many games coming in a short span, sometimes you need to be able to calm things down and lock the game up, and credit to Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky and Kailen Sheridan for helping orchestrate Canada’s efforts in that department on Saturday.
And speaking of tactics, Canada once again proved to be an intriguing outfit tactically on Saturday, as they mostly stuck with the philosophies that they showed in their opening game against Japan.
Despite their 3 changes to the starting XI, which saw Grosso and Jayde Riviere slot in for Quinn and Allysha Chapman, along with Sheridan’s insertion for an injured Stephanie Labbe in goal, Canada avoided straying too far from their gameplan, and to give credit to them, it worked pretty well.
Offensively, they stuck in a sort of 4-3-1-2, with Sinclair dropping from her usual #9 position to play as a sort of #10, linking play between the midfield and the forward line with her clever play.
With the verticality of Nichelle Prince, who ended up providing an assist and was involved in the other goal, and the incisiveness from Beckie, it proved to be an efficient performance from Canada’s front 3 as a whole.
Otherwise, it was as expected from Canada’s offence, whose full backs, Riviere and Lawrence, tried to get forward whenever possible, supplementing the front 3 and their midfield, who tried to contribute to Canada’s ball progression whenever possible.
Unlike the Japan game, they were a lot more direct when they got the ball in good areas, as well, doing a good job of playing more incisive balls and whip dangerous balls into the box, which was also nice to see.
Defensively, Canada tried to press through their front 2 whenever possible, mostly when the ball was shunted into wide areas, before dropping into a compact 4-3-3 that sometimes became a 4-5-1 when Chile pushed past that initial pressure, stifling most of their opponents’ midfield play.
There were a few moments where Chile managed to break through into wide areas, where they did cause some problems, but Canada mostly managed to keep things tidy at the back, doing what they needed to do in order to keep the result.
They’ll have to be careful against Great Britain, who have some good wide players, but overall this 4-3-1-2 has proven to be a solid formation for Canada, who has appeared to find a good balance between defending and chance creation.
What to expect from Great Britain?
Speaking of Great Britain, what can Canada reasonably expect from them?
And it’s a good question, one that Priestman and her staff will have to look at.
But based on what we’ve seen from them, they’re a formidable outfit, one that should provide a great test for Canada ahead of the knockout round.
Through 2 games, they first beat Chile 2-0 before beating Japan 1-0, showing a good mix of defensive ability and clinical offence.
Offensively, 2019 World Cup Golden Boot co-winner Ellen White has continued to be her team’s offensive focal point, scoring all 3 of her team’s goals, while the likes of Lauren Hemp, Nikita Parris, Georgia Stanway and Rachel Daly have proven to be good at supporting her and getting the ball.
Along with former Ballon D’Or runner-up Lucy Bronze at right back, this Great Britain team can be quite dangerous going forward, giving plenty for the Canadian defence to think about.
At the other end, they’ve been equally as solid, as well, with Stephanie Houghton leading the way at the back, along with Ellie Roebuck in goal, helping them remain as the only team yet to concede a goal in Tokyo.
So overall, a tough test awaits Canada, as Great Britain is in excellent form.
Canada will have the memories of a 2-0 win over England in April in mind, no doubt, but they’ll have to be close to perfect to emulate that result, especially based on what we’ve seen from Great Britain so far.
But either way, it promises to be a good game for Canada, who will be up for the test, especially with 180 minutes of Olympic football under their belt.
Again, winning remains the priority, as they’ll want to solidify their spot in the knockout stages, but they also want to take a step forward performance-wise, too.
4 points from 6 through 2 games is nothing to scoff at, but this Canadian team has even more to give, as well, making the potential of them finding a new gear a tantalizing one.
They started to find that next gear against Chile, but will now look to ramp things right up ahead of their clash with Great Britain, setting the tone for what’s to come.
But thankfully, they can do so with the comfort that this win over Chile provided, giving them a bit of leeway ahead of what’s to come.
As they look to chase their 3rd consecutive podium finish at the Olympics, this Canadian team has shown that they’ve got what it takes to make that potentially happen, but the tough part of the journey starts now.
Up Next: Canada vs Great Britain, Tuesday, July 27th, 04:00 AM PDT, 07:00 AM EDT (Kashima Soccer Stadium, Kashima)
Cover Photo via: Canada Soccer/Daniela Porcelli