By Aldwyn McGill
OTTAWA – The Round of 16 is completed and the matchup for teams at the quarter-finals of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is set.
One of the most intriguing matchups is Canada versus England in BC Place in Vancouver on Saturday (June 27) where Canada has a realistic chance to surpass expectations.
However, it must be noted that most of the potent teams in the tournament are playing in the eastern part of the country where the France clash with Germany at Olympic Stadium in Montreal will present fireworks and USA against China PR at Lansdowne Park Stadium in Ottawa is as good as it gets for contrast of styles.
France and Canada should have picked up momentum from their victories over Korea DPR (3-0) and Switzerland (1-0) respectively. However, France’s clinical display was before a crowd of 25,255 in Montreal while Canada’s was before an energetic crowd of 53,855 at BC Place Stadium.
Josee Belanger provided Canada with the goal in the 52nd minute from a well-timed left-footed shot but it was goalkeeper Erin McLeod who booked Canada’s ticket to the quarter finals with a fingertip save on Switzerland’s Vanessa Bernauer with less than five minutes remaining in regulation to preserve the win.
McLeod’s stop was one of the best if not the best save thus far in the tournament. After pouncing on a loose ball within the six-yard box, Bernauer’s turnaround shot had goal written all over it until McLeod managed to get her FINGERs to deflect the ball for a corner with her body fully extended.
Canada’s coach John Herdman has his team rising to the occasions with hot goalkeeping and Kadeisha Buchannan in control of one of the stingiest defenses in the tournament riding the rhythm of an energetic home crowd that is helping the team generate scoring from the unlikeliest of sources.
However, Herdman’s concern should be that Canada has joined just three other teams in the history of the Women’s World Cup which have reached the quarter final stage by scoring only four goals and Belanger was one of the many unlikeliest of Canadian players to score the historic fourth as a lone winner.
Maybe he should take a look at his captain Christine Sinclair who seems to be running on fumes at the moment in comparison to her younger opponents while forward Melisa Tancredi’s reaction time on plays have been a tad late since the England warm-up friendly at Hamilton stadium in May.
It is the same scenario which caused Brazil’s 1-0 elimination at the hands of Australia after the much traveled Marta and Cristiane were ineffective against younger opposition. Luckily for Herdman, 29-year-old Josee Belanger scored her first in nearly five years for McLeod’s huge save to book Canada’s passage to the quarter finals.
They say all is well that ends well as Canada fans got to go home happy. The expectations are high as the fans return to the same BC Place stadium where Canada will do battle against an England team which it has defeated 1-0 in a friendly just under a month ago in Hamilton.
The quarter-finals start tomorrow (Friday) with the Germany-France matchup at Olympic Stadium in Montreal at 4 p.m. and USA versus China PR at Lansdowne Stadium in Ottawa at 7:30 p.m. while on Saturday Australia faces Japan at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton at 4 p.m. while Canada host England at BC Place at 7:30 p.m.