Well, 3 points are 3 points, they got the job done, there are no easy games, you can't take anything for granted etc etc. With all those sorts of things said, hands up who's encouraged by that performance from Canada against the 61st ranked team? Who watched that and thought, "the Swedes will be worried by this"? Me neither.
Earlier in the day Sweden and Japan played out a 0-0 draw, so Sweden now has 4 points as does Japan. It's fair to say that Japan will beat South Africa, so will get 7, that means a draw would leave Sweden in 2nd with 5 points and Canada 3rd with 4. Which is to say that Canada needs to beat Sweden to finish above them and claim 2nd.
To do that, we'll have to hope that the change of venue, to John Herdman's hometown of Newcastle and St James' Park will magically change something around as neither form not good fortune were to be found in Coventry. The bad fortune is in regards to the increasingly desperate centre back situation. After Candace Chapman went down in the game against Japan, and with Emily Zurrer also unable to play, Right Back Robin Gayle was drafted in to play in the middle. In the second half, she had to leave with an injury. Hopefully one of those 3 will be able to play alongside Carmelina Moscato against the Swedes as an already shaky looking defence really doesn't need to be further weakened.
It's harsh to criticise Gayle, playing out of her usual position, but she definitely contributed to a defence that often looked uncertain. In the first half a harmless looking cross was allowed to bounce by Gayle, then left alone due to miscommunication with re-installed goalie Karina Leblanc (though it was stated that giving both Leblanc and Erin Mcleod games early on was alwsay the plan, so this wasn't necessarily a demotion for Mcleod). That saw the ball end up bouncing on the top of the bar and over to safety. There were plenty of other chances as well, the sort of chances that a better team than South Africa, like ooh, let's say Sweden, would have scored from. It was very unconvincing back there.
It wasn't much better than that when it came to the attack either, disjointed, slow, hesitant, and unsharp were the words that came to mind throughout most of the game. Early on, there were a series of poor touches in good situations from Diane Matheson and Melissa Tancredi. Those two did get it right for an early goal though, Matheson's cross from the right deftly directed in by Tancredi. That was in the 6th minute, surely the early confidence builder they needed to really get on with the job of crushing the minnow and bolstering a potentially crucial goal difference.
Not so much, for the rest of the first half Canada very rarely got any attacks going, the passing was nowhere near quick enough, and Christine Sinclair was rarely seen, though she was involved in setting up what were probably Canada's best half chances in the remainder of the half. The second half started off with South Africa all over Canada, but unable to make the breakthrough, before Canada finally managed to exert some authority on the game.
Sinclair and Tancredi were both drifting out wide from time to time, and seeing more of the ball as a consequence, Sinclair set up Sophie Schmidt for a shot that Schmidt messed up, but it was a cross from out wide that set up the 2nd goal. Kaylyn Kyle (I think) sent a long cross field ball out to the left wing where Lauren Sesselman was in acres of space and put in a cross that Sinclair headed on to the bar. It bounced down and maybe over the line, but Sinclair made sure there was no need for more 'goal line technology' type arguments by following up and knocking the rebound into the net.
That was in the 58th minute and she added the third in the 86th, running past her marker to reach a through ball, and clamly slotting it past the goalie. Jonelle Foligno and Diane Matheson both hit the post in the second as well, as Canada's presumed superiority finally showed up.
So a 3-0 win it is, good but probably not good enough to avoid anxious calculations and scoreboard watching of the other groups if Canada does end up in 3rd as seems likely. This was their chance to get some goals, get some positive momentum and build confidence, and I think it's unlikely that that's what will come out of this. It's good that Sinclair scored twice, Canada are going to need her at her best and much more involved to stand a chance in future games, but all in all it wasn't the sort of performance that gets the pulse racing.
Maybe I'm being harsh, the South Africans certainly put in an energetic effort to knock Canada out of their stride and maybe that was always going to happen and Canada was always going to have to wait until the end of the game when they tired to exert themselves. The second half was certainly much better, as Canada took a lot more advantage of the space on the wings.
Basically, we've got what we all expected so far, a defeat to Japan and a win over South Africa. They've looked a lot less convincing getting here than I would have liked, but here they are, a game against Sweden to decide who gets the 2nd place finish. From here on in, all the games will be against good teams, and all the results will be very very important. Does Canada have what it takes to do what they haven't really done in a while, play above themselves and get a result in a gem they're not favoured in? From here on in is when we find out.