Nichelle Prince considers Christine Sinclair a legend, but the young forward made her own mark on Canadian women’s soccer on Sunday.
Prince scored in the 49th minute to give Canada a 1-0 victory over Brazil in front of a crowd of 16,128 in a friendly at TD Place.
“It’s a dream playing with Sinclair,” said Prince, a 23-year-old from Ajax, Ont. “I grew up watching her play, and that’s one thing, but playing with her, you see just how smart she is. She’s just a very clinical and smart player. Playing beside her the last few years, I’ve learned so much and improved being beside her.”
It was the first meeting between the two national teams since Canada beat Brazil on its home turf for the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Canada, ranked fifth, is now 4-3-0 in 2018 as it prepares for the CONCACAF championship next month in the United States. That tournament serves as a qualifier for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
Canada and Brazil will meet again Tuesday in a closed-door game.
Following that match, Canadian head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller will have some tough decisions to make regarding his roster for the CONCACAF championship.
“I had hoped after these games that my job would be getting difficult and it’s definitely not getting easier,” Heiner-Moller said. “I think the ones you saw on the pitch, they definitely pushed the more experienced players, and they do that in the [training] sessions as well. ... It’s very exciting for Canadian soccer at this minute.”
Heiner-Moller liked what he saw from his squad, but still feels there are areas for improvement.
“On the ball, we’re still building, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “We’re still building on our performance. We’re in great positions and we worked very hard this week on being in the right positions, but the execution lacked just a little bit. In total, it’s a win in Ottawa and we’re very pleased about it.”
The team feels good about its preparation for the CONCACAF championship
“We’ve been tested a lot this year with really great teams, Tier 1 opponents, and this was another test for us,” Prince said. “I think we’re just building in confidence and we’re improving in little things each game. There’s a few things we need to clean up, but we’re still building and we know that we’re in a good spot for qualifiers and for next year.”
Canada’s lone goal came after Janine Beckie placed a ball into the box off a free kick. Kadeisha Buchanan got a piece of it and Prince was able to finish for her seventh international goal.
As expected, it was a physical match. Buchanan was rocked as Brazil’s Beatriz took her down hard in the 60th minute. The veteran took a moment to catch her breath and was back out.
Prince nearly had her second off an Adriana Leon corner kick at the 77th minute, but the header went just wide.
The two teams seemed to be feeling each other out early in the first half, but then Canada applied some sustained pressure.
Brazil’s Camila picked up a yellow card in the 35th minute after taking Beckie down. On the ensuing free kick, Beckie looked for Sinclair, who just missed connecting with her head.
“This is what you expect when you play Brazil, but we like a physical style,” Beckie said.
The energetic crowd endured heavy rain and hot and humid temperatures. It inspired both teams.
“It was beautiful to see all the support for women’s soccer in Canada,” Brazil’s coach Vadao said. “It’s something we aspire to in Brazil, as we have so little support for the women’s game.”
Canada earned an automatic berth into the CONCACAF championship, as did the United States and Mexico. Costa Rica, Panama, Jamaica and Cuba will also participate, with one more team from the Caribbean still to qualify.
Canada still doesn’t know which teams will be in its group. The draw will be held Tuesday. The top three teams from that event will qualify for next year’s World Cup.
Brazil qualified for the World Cup by winning the Copa America Femenina earlier this year.