ST. JOHN’S, Canada—Despite a strong start to the contest and a valiant effort to claw back into it in the closing quarter of an hour, Canada fell 2-0 to Brazil in their last match at the SheBelieves Cup.
With the two nations coming into Orlando sharing the eighth spot in the FIFA world rankings, this game should have offered the most evenly contested fixture of the tournament.
Statistically speaking, things were close to dead even in most departments at the final whistle, save for the one number that ultimately decided the outcome.
FT: Canada 0-2 Brazil— NWSL Analitica (@NwslAnalitica) February 24, 2021
Shots (OT): 11 (4) - 9 (4)
Possession: 49 - 51
Duels won %: 45 - 55
Aerial duels won %: 50 - 50
Offsides: 8 - 0
Total passes: 457 - 479
Passing accuracy: 82 - 80
Opp. half passing accuracy: 70 - 71
Tackles won %: 58 - 75
Fouls: 10 - 10
While difficulties in finishing off attacking movements were (unfortunately) not a new problem for Canada, individual errors at the back were indeed a rare sight in their first two matches in the competition. Brazil was ruthless in capitalizing on a pair of Canadian mistakes and was in the driver's seat before the interval.
Bev Priestman will be slightly relieved thanks to the bounce back her side demonstrated in the second half but in the end, the result will surely disappoint.
Finishing out the tournament with a 1-0-2 record, here is what we at Waking the Red gathered in the loss to Brazil.
Individual errors part of adapting to the Priestman era
Changing tactics and ideologies from one manager to another is a tough transition for any group of players to make.
Add in the fact that Shelina Zadorsky (28) was the only player in Canada’s back four against Brazil over the age of 22 and individual mistakes feel more like par for the course than a reason to panic.
When the defending mentality shifts from “hoof it upfield” to playing out the back with purpose, mistakes are a given as the group endures some growing pains along the way.
It was 18-year-old Jade Rose who gave it away in the build to Brazil’s first before Gabrielle Carle couldn’t clear her lines moments later when Canada would concede a second.
Although both Carle and Rose will be disappointed in the two moments, the major positive should be the response from both players.
The duo would go on to play the full 90 minutes and continue to push the ball upfield with the intent of finding a way back into it.
In a tournament where one of the main goals was to battle test players before this summer’s Olympic games, Priestman will hope the results start to come with the tough reps but should be pleased with her young squad’s answer to adversity in the meantime.
Capitalizing on chances a lingering Canadian problem
Any way you chalk it up, scoring just once—and not at all from open play—in three matches at the SheBelieves Cup is a disappointing output from the Canadian attack.
Chance creation was one of the few redeeming qualities of the offense in the tournament. With 37 shots attempted and 12 on target across the three contests, opportunities were certainly present despite the lack of finishing.
Janine Beckie on #CanWNT's scoring slump at the 2021 #SheBelievesCup— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) February 25, 2021
: "The positive is that we're creating those chances, but if I'm honest, we've been saying that for a while, and haven't shifted to putting those chances into the goal. I don't know what the answer is rn." pic.twitter.com/q2qm1x5j6F
However, as Janine Beckie so bluntly put it following the Brazil game, the forward group being less than prolific in front of goal is not an issue unique to this competition.
Many will chalk up the lack of end product simply to the absence of Christine Sinclair and Jordyn Huitema.
Both omissions did in fact play a part in the scoring struggles but the key for Prisetman moving forward is to find cohesion and consistency within her front three.
This of course requires the availability of all Canada’s attackers to decipher what their best combination is ahead of high stakes fixtures such as this summer in Tokyo.
Their next opportunity to assess the squad comes in April against England, with a friendly scheduled to take place during a FIFA sanctioned international window.
If all those in contention for a starting spot in the attack are indeed available for selection, this fixture against the Three Lionesses could be the final audition for Canada to find their preferred forward line heading into the Olympics.
Defensive structure a strength despite squad rotation
Conceding three times in three games is a respectable statistic in its own right for the Canadian defense, particularly given the level of competition they faced in the tournament.
Diving a little deeper, none of their three opponents really broke down the backline in the buildup leading to any of their goals.
The lone American goal is conceded from a set-piece situation in their opener, a clean sheet was kept against Argentina, and an aforementioned pair of Canadian errors led to Brazil scoring twice on Wednesday evening.
Of course, goals against are all tallied equally regardless of the circumstances and Priestman will want to tidy things up going forward.
The mindset to play rather than panic on the ball in their defensive third is another big positive for the manager to take from this tournament despite a couple of bumps in the road along the way.
Considering eight different players featured in the back four across the three matches, some sloppiness should be expected nonetheless.
The absence of both Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence in Canada’s defense for this competition also can not be overstated.
Assuming Lawrence doesn’t shift into midfield under Priestman, both will make an immediate positive impact upon their return to a defensive core clearly making strides in the right direction.