It took a 93rd minute effort from Canada's all time leading scorer, Christine Sinclair, but Big Red were able to send Moncton fans home happy with a 1-0 win over China. Sincy used great movement in the box to get behind the defenders and applied a deft touch to redirect a Diana Matheson free kick past China's goal keeper Wang (one of the four). It was probably the only real highlight in the match and it continued to show that Canada is only going to go as far as their captain is going to take them. The good news is that they do have a number of other tune ups before the Olympics get underway for Canada in Coventry, England. The bad news is they have a long way to go if they want to even be around when the medals are handed out.
In a game with very few talking points one of the best storylines was that Matheson was able to go the entire match. The pint sized midfielder had been out for a number of months and missed the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers but she seems to be back and fit now. Her return to the squad would be a huge boost as it upgrades the midfield from being average to being able to compete with some of the best in the world. When Matheson along with Schmidt and Scott are on form they can really dictate things in the middle of the park which is key in providing consistent service to Sinclair up front.
They were not on top of their game tonight though as they struggled to deal with the Chinese tactics. The visitors really closed down the ball well and clogged up the middle of the field. That approach made it hard for Canada to get the ball forward and despite a few wasted chances by Sincalir and Timko it really limited the attacking options. The majority of Canada's chances that did come in the game arrived when they reverted to going route one and just getting it in behind the defenders for the attackers to chase down and when the goal did finally come it was off a set piece.
Timko did find herself on the end of at least two good scoring chances in the first half but the first one was wasted by a very poor finish and the second one came to nothing when she was caught off guard by a challenge from the Chinese keeper outside the 18 yard box. Other than that there was a missed chance from Sinclair and a missed header from Chapman to round out the scoring chances for the game.
On the whole Canada showed a real lack of sharpness in every area of the field. There was no one player who stood out as being sharp for Canada and making a big difference in the game. They did well to limit the Chinese when they did get forward but once Canada got on the ball the movement was too slow and the passing was often misplaced. They could get away with those sort of things against a Chinese team that is rebuilding and much less athletic but when it comes to the top teams in the world that won't cut it.
When they take to the field against Japan to open their Olympic campaign they are going to have to look a lot more like the team we saw in Vancouver and less like the team that played in front of over 7,500 fans in Moncton. If they can get back to that level then an upset or two is possible but if not a World Cup flashback could be in store.
That next friendly against the US at the end of June will be a much better measuring stick for this team. If they can manage to get fired up for that game and put in a better effort it will show if they have improved or regressed since the teams last met at the Olympic Qualifiers.