1 – 2
|Tancredi 55'||GOALS||Kawasumi 33'
|3||SHOTS ON GOAL||5|
Tongue-tied, I'm short of breath, don't even try.
Oooh, try a little harder
Something's wrong, you're not naive, you must be strong
Oooh, baby try
Hey girl, move a little closer, you're too shy, shy
Hush, hush, eye to eye...
- "Too Shy", Kajagoogoo
Stop me if you've heard this one before: a more powerful opponent, played defensively without any pressuring forward. Any advantage on paper was left on the table.
Sounds like TFC, doesn't it? Except it's not -- it was the way that the Canadian women's team played defending World champions Japan today in Coventry. 30 minutes of conceding possession to a hungry team led to two first half goals that the Canadians would only recover one of, and the result is a 2-1 loss to open the London 2012 Olympic campaign.
While the result is not a knockout by any means, it does put one major questions into play: why were the Canadians so respectful of the Japanese? The Canadians do play a more physical game under John Herdman, a style that is not that much different from the American system under Pia Sundhage -- so why was Japan allowed to get so much ball time without so much as a contest?
The first thirty minutes was a bit of a slugfest, with both sides committing a few errors -- but when Nahomi Kawasumi finally broke the deadlock at the 33rd minute, it was the cumulation of the Canadians giving away far too much possession, which allowed the Japanese to create more chances. The second goal from Homare Sawa in the 44th minute was even more puzzling: why was Erin McLeod so far off her line, when Sawa was in the area?
Lauren Sesselman is arguably the hero of the game -- early in the second half, with the Japanese (again) charging and McLeod way far off her line, Yuki Ogimi was left completely alone (a theme for the match, and a bad thing to do), and was allowed to get a point-blank shot towards goal, and was kept out by Sesselman's foot. If the goal had gone in, then it would have been good night -- but instead, it set up a goal.
That goal, the only one the Canadians did manage to claw back, showed what Canada should have done all game long: use the body and size to win and keep the ball: Yukari Kinga was completely run over by a charging Rhian Wilkinson, who crossed it to Melissa Tancredi to make it 2-1. It was a simple matter of using the body -- and something that Herdman should think about going into the next game: to exploit the size advantages, and to be more physical.
Equally worrying is perhaps the road map to the front: it seemed like the strategy was simply to find a way up to Christine Sinclair, who had at least 3 Japanese defenders on her like
ninja assassins on an evil daimyo tweenage girls on OneDirection a wet blanket on a campfire. It's a tried, true and failed strategy, something that the Japanese clearly saw through. While they certainly didn't foresee Tancredi, who was almost unmarked -- Canada has to find other ways around the castle.
Meanwhile, the late injury to Candace Chapman is a huge concern for the rest of the games -- the Canadians are now without an experienced centre back. Emily Zurrer is still nursing an injury, and if Chapman is out, the Canadian defence could look even more brittle than it already is, and it's yet to be tested by the likes of South Africa's Nompumelelo Nyandeni and Sweden's Lotta Schelin: not as big a task as say Sawa, Ogimi or Miyama, but tough tests nevertheless.
The game doesn't leave any warm fuzzies, but there is one lesson to be learned -- the Canadians can't afford to be too shy again this tournament; with one loss in the books, any hopes of a medal now rests in the next two games -- it's time to really mean business.