Canada’s opening match of 2022 came with a slow start. But a sublime second-half strike by Janine Beckie levelled the playing field in a 1-1 draw with England at the Arnold Clark Cup.
The sixth-ranked Canadian women are back at it Sunday, facing No. 3 Germany in the four-team tournament. Canada coach Bev Priestman will be hoping her Olympic champion team comes out of the gate faster at Norwich’s Carrow Road.
“First half we weren’t ourselves, I would say,” Priestman said. “Second half we made some adjustments, but also just the mindset to play forward more, to take more risks. And I thought that was a much better account of ourselves.
“But don’t get me wrong. It was a tough game, tough opposition. A group who were fully in-season. And I think you could feel that at moments in the game.”
Eighth-ranked England had 57-per-cent possession, outshot Canada 16-5 (4-2 in shots on target) and had a 6-2 edge in corners.
Millie Bright put England ahead in the 22nd minute from a short corner. The ball was sent into the box with Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan punching it away in traffic. But the ball went straight to Bright and the Chelsea defender took advantage, scoring with a sweet right-footed volley that deflected off Canadian forward Jordyn Huitema en route to goal.
The lead could have been larger had it not been for some timely interventions by Canadian centre back Kadeisha Buchanan, who was immense on the day.
Canada tied it in the 55th minute after Ashley Lawrence intercepted a pass and made a surging run towards the England goal. Her pass deflected off a defender to Huitema, who slipped it to Beckie. The Manchester City forward stopped and curled a left-footed shot into the top corner from just outside of the penalty box.
It was Beckie’s 34th goal for Canada, tying her with Kara Lang for fourth spot on the Canadian scoring list.
Beckie said she actually regretted her first touch, saying she wanted the ball on her right foot. But the left worked quite nicely.
England coach Sarina Wiegman was complimentary towards the Canadians, calling them a “top-level team.”
“They did come as advertised,” she said. “Of course, they’re the Olympic champions and I think they’re a very strong team. They have a lot of speed in their team, so that’s really dangerous in transition. That’s what we saw, that’s what happened with the goal. They were just gone.
“But they’re also well-structured. Today they also showed that they can change their structure a little bit which made us struggle a little bit.”
In the opening game of the doubleheader at Riverside Stadium, No. 3 Germany tied No. 9 Spain 1-1 thanks to an 87th-minute goal by Lea Schueller. Alexia Putellas, named The Best FIFA Women’s Player and Ballon d’Or winner for 2021, scored for Spain in the 46th minute after pouncing on a German defensive error.
Spain had won 16 straight prior to Thursday’s draw, outscoring the opposition 96-0.
After Germany, Canada takes on Spain next Wednesday at Wolverhampton’s Molineux Stadium.
In the absence of Christine Sinclair, 23-year-old Jessie Fleming wore the captain’s armband for the first time at the senior level. Sinclair has stayed home following the recent death of her mother. The Canadians wore black armbands in memory of Sandi Sinclair.
Fleming was one of six starters from the Tokyo Olympic final in Thursday’s starting 11. Three more were on the bench, which was split between veterans and relative newcomers.
The starting 11 came into the match with 758 combined caps. With NWSL teams in pre-season mode, Priestman opted for seven starters based in Europe.
The introduction of Quinn, who goes by one name, bolstered the Canadian midfield in the 59th minute. Fullback Jayde Riviere limped off in the 66th minute, favouring her left leg after going down awkwardly.
The game opened up in the dying minutes, with both teams attacking.
Canada is gearing up for the CONCACAF W Championship in July in Monterrey, Mexico, which will determine who will represent North and Central America and the Caribbean at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
England is preparing to host the UEFA European Women’s Football Championship in July. It is also in the midst of World Cup qualifying, posting a record-breaking 20-0 victory over No. 112 Latvia in November.
Canada had won the past two meetings between the two, with a 2-0 victory most recently last April in Stoke. But Priestman downplayed those results, saying England was in a state of transition with Wiegman yet to take charge.
The Dutch coach is now 6-0-1 at England’s helm. The six wins were against lesser opposition in World Cup qualifying. The English women outscored the opposition 53-0 during that run.
Canada is 9-3-6 under Priestman including two shootout wins at the Tokyo Olympics. The losses were to the U.S., Brazil and Mexico.
The tournament title sponsor, Arnold Clark, is a family-run car dealer.