My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
The record Canadian crowd had to wait until the 92nd minute for the home side to get the winner as captain Christine Sinclair converted from the penalty spot. For the majority of the match, Canada had been frustrated by a youthful and energetic Chinese side and the majority of the action happened in the first half – notably when Wang Lisi’s free-kick hit both posts. Cheered on by 53,058 fans, a record in both men’s and women’s Canadian football, it looked like they would fail to break the deadlock. But in second half stoppage time, Adriana Leon was fouled in the box and Sinclair converted with a superb penalty.
Looking at the history books, China were the favourites having been unbeaten in their opening World Cup fixture, whilst Canada had never won theirs. But after failing to qualify for the 2011 World Cup, China have adopted a youth policy which meant that on experience, it was the Canadians who edge it.
And the home team started strongly and within 3 minutes had tested the Chinese keeper Wang Fei. Sophie Schmidt launched the ball into the box and it fell to centre-back Kadeisha Buchanan who controlled the ball, before having two attempts saved by the keeper.
Canada were controlling the possession and a delightful chipped pass from Melissa Tancredi into the path of Christine Sinclair nearly brought a goal, but the captain’s shot went wide of the far post.
China were pressuring Canada well, and this lead to a nightmare couple of minutes for centre-back Lauren Sesselmann that nearly saw her substituted. First, she didn’t get enough power on her pass-back and Gu Yasha, gambling on her mistake, was only denied by quick keeping from Erin McLeod. And then, Sesselmann plays a wayward pass which forced Desiree Scott into a foul. And from the free-kick, Wang Lisi’s curling effort first smashed off the top left corner, before hitting the bottom right corner and bouncing clear.
And then Canada decided to hit the woodwork, this time Josée Bélanger’s driven shot rattling the crossbar.
China were posing a threat from each set piece. They fooled the Canadians into thinking they were launching a 35-yard free-kick into the box, and instead played it down the right-wing. Gu Yasha crossed to the near post where Zhao Rong headed wide under strong pressure from Buchanan.
Each time Canada threatened, they were either forced into a long shot or were met by brave defending. Bélanger’s ball took a deflection in the box to land at Sinclair’s feet, and in quick succession Sinclair, Ashley Lawrence and Sophie Schmidt all had shots blocked.
On the stroke of half-time, Buchanan’s cross found Tancredi at the far post, but she misdirected her headed pass straight out for a goal-kick.
China had a good start in the second half, but when Ren Guixan’s ball picked out Wang Shanshang, the superb Kadeisha Buchanan was there to use her physicality to stop the danger.
But the Chinese defensive shape was frustrating Canada. It took until the 66th minute for their first effort when Desiree Scott shot wide from the edge of the box. And when Canada got a ball into the box, a Chinese head was always there to win the ball or failing that the confident Wang Fei.
And then, Canada had a glorious chance in the 82nd minute. Christine Sinclair’s initial shot was deflected, but the ball never fell kindly to Sophie Schmidt in the box. Schmidt took her time before setting up Sinclair, who failed to put enough power on her side-footed effort which Wang Fei saved comfortably.
It looked like for a moment that the opening game of the 2015 Women’s World Cup was going to be a 0-0 draw when there was drama. Sophie Schmidt’s ball was headed down toward Adriana Leon, and the referee decided that Zhao Rong had elbowed her in the face and pointed to the spot. Christine Sinclair placed the ball on the spot and despite Wang Fei diving the right way, her penalty was precisely placed in the bottom left corner, brushing the inside of the post as it went over the line.
Woman of the Match?
There are three contenders. Christine Sinclair for that calm penalty and Wang Fei who dominated her box. But I’m choosing Canada’s Kadeisha Buchanan. Her intelligent defending stopped China from scoring, and she played with a calmness that belied her 19 years of age.
Canada: Erin McLeod, Josée Bélanger, Kadeisha Buchanan, Lauren Sesselmann, Allysha Chapman, Jonelle Filigno (Kaylyn Kyle 61), Desiree Scott (Jessie Fleming 71), Ashley Lawrence, Melissa Tancredi (Adriana Leon 77), Christine Sinclair (c), Sophie Schmidt.
Booked: Desiree Scott.
Goal: Christine Sinclair pen 90+2.
China: Wang Fei, Wu Haiyan (c), Zhao Rong, Li Dogna, Liu Shanshan, Wang Lisi (Han Peng 42), Tan Ruyin, Li Ying (Zhang Rui 62), Ren Guixin, Gu Yasha (Ma Jun 87), Wang Shanshan.