TORONTO, Canada—The Canadian women’s national team began their Tokyo 2020 Olympic run on Wednesday morning, as they drew Japan 1-1 following a late equalizer from the host country.
Canada got off to a dream start at the competition when Christine Sinclair, who was making her 300th appearance for the team, would run onto the end of a Nichelle Prince cross, and although her first attempt would ricochet off the post, she would make no mistake on the follow-up, putting the Canadians ahead in the sixth minute. It was the all-time leading international goal scorer’s 187th career goal.
With her 300th cap, Sinclair became just the fourth player in history with that many appearances for their country.
Les Rouges would continue to keep the pressure on in the first half as Prince in particular posed a dangerous threat down the wing. And for the most part, Canada’s back line, led by Kadeisha Buchanan, were quick to put out any sight of danger that came their way.
In the 49th minute, Japan was rewarded a penalty after a VAR review after goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe appeared to make contact with oncoming striker, although the play was initially deemed a free kick for Canada. Labbe would stay down injured following the play, but managed to shake it off and stay in goal, setting up a heroic moment for the 34 year old.
Mina Tanaka would step up to the spot to take the penalty for the home side, and after a slow run up to the ball, it would Labbe coming up with the vital save to preserve Canada’s 1-0 lead. The team’s reaction following the save tells you all you need to know about just how big of a moment that was.
Labbe, who was injured on the initial play, would have to be substituted off just a few minutes later, as goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan would check into the match, which would prove to be a significant moment later on.
But first, Canada thought they had doubled their scoring in the 60th minute when Japan’s goalkeeper Sakiko Ikeda would spill an Ashley Lawrence cross right into the path of a steaming Prince, whose first and second attempts were scuffed, however, Janine Beckie was there to tap home.
The Manchester City attacker proceeded to celebrate, but her jubilation was cut short after it was deemed that she was offside—and I mean just offside—on the play.
And while Canada kept Japan at bay for most of this match, in the 84th minute, the hosts would find their breakthrough. Mana Iwabuchi would get in behind Canada’s back line, who were quick to make up ground. But Iwabuchi took her chance early, perhaps catching goalkeeper Sheridan off guard, equalizing the game for the Japanese.
Sheridan likely would’ve wanted that one back as it appeared to be a weak attempt from outside the box, but nevertheless, the game was tied—and that’s how it would finish.
It was a strong opening game for the Canadians despite dropping points late and they’ll look to build off that on when they take on Chile on Saturday.
In other rather surprising news, the United States lost their opening match to Sweden by a score of 3-0.