TORONTO, CANADA - Canada might just have a solution to their goalscoring woes. Janine Beckie is no unknown name, but she put her stamp on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic football tournament on Saturday.
After opening the scoring 20 seconds into the first match at Rio 2016, it took a little while longer for Beckie to find the back of the net in Tokyo; however, she did so twice against Chile, leading Team Canada to a 2-1 win over the Olympic debutants.
With the three points, Canada all but officially clinches a spot in the quarterfinals of the Olympic football tournament. For the Canadians to miss out, they would have to lose, and other scores go against them to push them out of the best third-place finishers.
Stephanie Labbè was unable to start the match due to a rib injury she sustained in the opening game against Japan. Still, Head Coach Bev Priestman had quality in net, sending NWSL star goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan between the sticks for her first Olympic start.
For Canadian fans who stayed up or woke up early, watching Saturday’s match was no easy task. Not only did the game kickoff at 3:00 am ET, but the game played out in classic Canadian soccer fashion.
Defender Kadeisha Buchanan thought she had opened the scoring early for Canada, forcing herself into the attack. However, Chile’s goalkeeper stopped her initial strike, and the referee deemed Buchanan’s rebound to have come off her hand, ruling out the early goal.
Although Canada is ranked higher than Chile, there is no easy opponent for a Canadian team that has sputtered offensively over the last year. Just ten minutes after Buchanan’s tally fell off the board, Canadians found themselves holding their breath.
Christine Sinclair, who scored her 187th international goal in the first game, had gone down in the box with an apparent Achilles injury. While the captain gingerly walked it off before returning to full speed, she had earned Canada a penalty and a chance to open the scoring.
Still nursing some discomfort, Sinclair did not step up to take the spot-kick, instead of leaving it to Manchester City forward Janine Beckie. While Beckie has scored PKs in the past, her shot rattled off the woodwork, keeping the match 0-0. Although she has some temporary discomfort, Sinclair played on without worry,
Beckie’s revenge on the post
For some athletes, missing a penalty in the Olympics would cause them to go into a shell and play shy for the rest of the match. Not for Beckie, who picked up the rebound on Nichelle Prince’s cross to give Canada the lead in the 38th minute.
Once Beckie scored her first goal of Tokyo and her fifth in two Olympic Games, her confidence skyrocketed, and she played determined for the rest of the match. Her confidence to take players on one-on-one, make runs behind the back and go into every challenge wore off on her teammates, especially Prince, who linked up beautifully with Beckie all night.
Beckie struck again, mere seconds after the halftime restart, to extend Canada’s lead, finishing a chance that proved to be the winning goal. Ashley Lawrence picked up the assist on Beckie’s second goal when she pushed higher up the field than her defensive position.
Throughout the last several matches, back to the SheBeleives Cup, Lawrence has shown her qualities going forward. With fullback options in the team, moving Lawrence up the field for future matches could provide more offensive opportunities, something Canada desperately needs.
Canada has to be better in the box
For the second match in a row, Canada’s defenders conceded a penalty in the second half. While the two-goal lead allowed room for error, committing another foul in the defensive area is not a good trend to keep up.
Although the backline was younger without the likes of Alysha Chapman, conceding spot kicks is never a good idea, and Canada will have to halt that trend to have any shot at a medal.
Looking Ahead: Team GB on July 27 (7 am ET)
Bev Priestman gave young Canadians opportunities against Chile, and they got the job done. Julia Grosso and Jayde Riviere both made their Olympic starting debuts and put in impressive shifts. While 12 members of the squad have previous Olympic experience, it will take youth to add another medal to the cupboard.
With a bit of experience for the youngsters, Canada is even better equipped for their final group stage match against Great Britain. Canada defeats England 2-0 back in April, and that group makes up the majority of Team GB.