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Canada opens Tokyo 2020 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament with 1:1 draw against Japan

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Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team earned one point in their opening match of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with a 1:1 draw with host Japan. Captain Christine Sinclair scored the opening goal in the 6', her 187th career goal, in what marked her 300th international appearance for Canada. Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi scored the equalizer in the 84’.

Sinclair became just the fourth player in soccer history to feature in 300 or more international “A” appearances, joining Americans Kristine Lilly (354), Christie Pearce (311) and Carli Lloyd (306) in the exclusive group.

“We took a point from playing the host nation which I think is great. The team went to the very end to make sure we got that point. The finishers came on and I think they changed the game, so credit to them, said Bev Priestman, Head Coach of Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team. “Chile are not an easy team to beat. We’ve got to be clinical and have the right mindset in our next game and we’ll absolutely come away with three points.”

Canada is the only nation in the world to reach the podium at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 in women’s football. The team is hoping to make history by getting back on the podium for a third consecutive time.

Canada will next face Chile on 24 July at 16.30 local (03.30 ET / 00.30 PT), before wrapping up the group phase against Great Britain in Kashima on 27 July at 20.00 local (07.00 ET / 04.00 PT). From 12 nations in three groups, the top-eight nations advance to the Olympic Quarterfinals from which winners then advance to the Semifinals and then a chance to win a medal. The Women’s Olympic Football Tournament runs 21 July through 6 August 2021, with this year’s gold medal match at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.

“It was great to get ahead early, and I thought we played well to start the game. It’s a shame we couldn’t hold on to the three points, but we’ll take the point and move on,” said Christine Sinclair. “I thought defensively we did well, they didn’t create many chances at all beside the goal and the PK. We knew they’d posses the ball through large chunks of the game and we’d hit them on the counter-attack, which we did. We have to recover well. The truth is we’ve been on the podium after losing our first game so anything can happen.”

Canada got off to a quick start. Ashley Lawrence played Nichelle Prince down the right wing in the 5’. Prince pulled the ball back into the box for Christine Sinclair who knocked the ball off the post and grabbed her own rebound to fire home for Canada. Canada played well through the first half with the lead, keeping the majority of possession. Prince continued to pose problems for Canada popping up in the 30’ to pressure the Japanese backline. Janine Beckie found space in the same wide areas as Prince, playing a ball all the way through the Japanese 18-yard box in the 37’ after a well-orchestrated switch of play across the backline.

Early in the second half, Canada’s goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé came together in the box with second-half substitute Mina Tanaka, staying down injured. While the medical staff treated Labbé, Referee Edina Alves made her way to the VAR booth, and it was determined that Japan be given a PK for the foul. Labbé, shaken, stayed in the game and made the vital penalty save in the 54’ before being substituted off in the 58’ for Kailen Sheridan.

Canada created a few chances through the middle of the second half with Prince continuing to find space and pulling the ball back into the box in the 71’. Sinclair played Prince in just a minute later, but the ball went over the bar.

In the 84’, Japan played a ball over the top and Mana Iwabuchi split Shelina Zadorsky and Kadeisha Buchanan to fire home the half volley past a diving Sheridan. Canada made late substitutions to work to get the winner and Jessie Fleming and Lawrence continued to work to provide service into the box. In a long injury time, Lawrence and Fleming combined out right, with Fleming playing Lawrence down the wing. Lawrence’s ball into the box was there for Leon in 90’ +3 but Japanese keeper Ikeda was able to bring the cross down.

“I don’t ever want to see one of my teammates get hurt and have to come off the field but at the end I know I’ve got her back and she’s got mine,” said Kailen Sheridan. “I think we showed that we’re dominant aerially and in defence. We need to be strong for 90 minutes. We showed a lot of teams that they need to look out for us.”

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