GRENOBLE, France — Canada were a relaxed group at their team hotel in Montpellier on Tuesday, and rightly so, after winning their opening game of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup against Cameroon the previous evening.
While Canada would have liked to score a few more goals in the 1-0 victory, the importance of starting with a win could not be overstated by head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller.
“Usually after these late matches (9 p.m. local kickoff), we leave reviewing the match until the next day,” Heiner-Moller said prior to the team’s departure to Grenoble for their next match Saturday against New Zealand. “I reviewed it this morning and I think the biggest thing for me — we have such high expectations in terms of standings, so when we look at the game we think we could have done so many other things — but we actually did alright.
“It’s a hard team to break down and we came into good positions and it was just a pass that was two yards off or a bad pass, but we actually did better than I expected watching from the sidelines and that’s a good thing about not reviewing the match right after the match with the players, but waiting a little bit. So there is definitely more positives than I thought when I went to bed last night.”
In a short tournament like the World Cup, results are the only thing that really matter in the end. Teams do not get style points in France and Canada is not about to beat themselves up for scoring one goal against a team intent on defending for the entire contest, lining up with five defenders.
“We are not used to starting with three points and teams have come into this tournament as big a favourite as we were in this match without getting three points,” Heiner-Moller said. “So it’s a great thing to travel with these three points into Grenoble, knowing that no matter what we have three points already. We have two matches to go, but at the end of the day, we have three points and they can’t take that away from us.”
WORLD CLASS DEFENCE
The way Canada has been defending this year, a case could be made they have one of the best back lines in the tournament.
While they may not have been over-taxed against Cameroon, Ashley Lawrence, Shelina Zadorsky, Kadeisha Buchanan and Allysha Chapman each had solid games, both individually and as a unit.
Cameroon had one shot on target and were limited to a pair of decent chances.
“I think we pride ourselves that it’s front to back, so it starts with our strikers up top, it starts with Sinc (Christine Sinclair) defending up there and it works all the way back,” Zadorsky said. “I think, individually, we take pride in our defending and that makes us a tight team and hard to break down. And I think we have great partnerships along the back line and we have goalkeepers who are phenomenal as well.
“It’s a combination of all those things, but we’ve always wanted to keep that as part of our identity, just a relentless defensive team and now we’ve added that attacking flair as well.”
Zadorsky and Buchanan have become a formidable pair in the heart of the Canadian defence. Against Cameroon, both displayed the ability to keep up with speedy forwards and make timely tackles.
“Right from the get-go, I’ve loved playing with Kesh,” Zadorsky said. “I think she’s relaxed and calm on the ball and she’s always got my back and I’ve always got hers. I think you saw that in the game, it was awesome, we were covering for each other and I think it’s just great. We are always communicating, we’re always making sure we have that connection on the field and I think what she brings to the game is phenomenal and we can feed off each other’s energy.”
Zadorsky plays professionally for the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League. Buchanan plays for the best club team in world in Olympique Lyonnais, who have won 13 consecutive French league titles and four straight UEFA Champions League championships.
“I think game experience and training with quality players day-in and day-out makes you a better all-around player and you grow as a person, too, so I think she (Buchanan) is coming into her own,” Zadorsky said. “She’s matured as a defender, takes pride in her positioning and works hard to keep our back line tight.”
FOOTBALL FERNS NEXT UP FOR CANADA
New Zealand should be well prepared when they face Canada in Grenoble on Saturday.
Head coach Tom Sermanni was a member of Canada’s coaching staff at the 2015 Women’s World Cup under John Herdman. He is also a former coach of the United States.
New Zealand, nicknamed the Football Ferns, lost their opening game 1-0 to the Netherlands on Tuesday in Le Havre on a goal scored in the dying seconds of the contest.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Tom,” Heiner-Moller said. “Tom is one of these guys who prove you don’t have to be a bad person to be a great coach. He’s such a tremendous guy.
“I played against him when he was in Australia, I played against him when he was in the U.S. and then he was in Orlando where Shelina played and I was an assistant for John. He’s a great guy and is a very good coach, so I’m looking forward to saying hi to him and playing him as well.”
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest
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