Olympic Recap: Canada vs. South Africa

Canada 3 for 3
by Ciara McCormack

photo by Mirko Kappes

Canada walked away from their clash with South Africa with 3 goals and the necessary 3 points to keep their hopes of advancing alive. With the injury to center back Candace Chapman against Japan and Emily Zurrer still nursing a hamstring tear suffered July 12, all eyes were on who would start in the backline for Canada. Herdman went for partnering Robyn Gayle with Carmelina Moscato, while he opted for Karina Leblanc in goal, which marked the second change in the Canadian lineup from their opening tilt against Japan.

The Canadians started strongly as Diana Matheson asserted herself well in the midfield, and laid a nice ball into Melissa Tancredi that she finished to score Canada’s opening goal for the second game in a row. Tancredi’s score in the 7th minute allowed the Canadians to settle comfortably into the match.

The Canadians continued to press well with Matheson leading the charge, ringing a cross/shot off the crossbar in the 11th minute while both Wilkinson and Lauren Sesselmann were doing a great job of getting up their respective lines from their right and left back positions. South Africa, while they didn’t look too dangerous offensively, settled into the match halfway into the first half. At times the South African side looked the better one in possession, surprising for a team that at 61st in the world, is ranked 4 spots lower in the FIFA world rankings than Haiti, a team that the Canadians demolished 6-0 in Olympic qualifying play in January.

In the 33rd minute, the Canadians had a scare as a lack of communication between Gayle and Leblanc gifted South Africa a chance, which Andisiwe Mgcoyi Mgcoyi got her foot to, and hit just over the bar. With a 1-0 lead and the knowledge that goal differential could possibly come into play should they be the third place finisher in the group, Herdman no doubt demanded more goals from his team at the half.

Yet it was the South African side that were the better one at the start of the second half until Sinclair finished a cross from Sesselmann that put the Canadians firmly in the driver seat of the match just before the 60th minute. For the rest of the match the Canadians drove forward trying to pad their lead, first with Matheson ringing a swirving shot off the crossbar, before Sinclair, showed her lethal ability to finish with her second of the game in the closing minutes to finish the game 3-0 for the Canadians, and send them into their match with Sweden, brimming with confidence.

Moving forward, the Canadians will be concerned once again with who will start in the backline, as for the second game in a row, late in the match, a center back needed to be replaced, this time with Gayle going down to injury. It seems unlikely that Chapman or Zurrer will be ready for duty in a crucial match up with Sweden, a team that will place a far stiffer test to the makeshift Canadian backline.

Sesselmann put in a solid performance at center back after replacing Gayle, but should she start at center back against the Swedes, the Canadians will lose her runs down the left flank which have been an important part of the Canadians attack thus far. South Africa will look to limit the damage in their next match against the Japanese, as they face a tough challenge against the world champions who will be looking to rebound from a scoreless tie with Sweden.