After a rather uneventful first half, both teams found their offence in the second half as Canada and Great Britain battled to a 1-1 draw in the final match of group-stage play at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. After an early second half goal gave Canada the lead, Great Britain squared things up late to share the spoils and win the group.
The draw means that Canada assured their spot in the knockout stage, coming in second in Group E to set up a quarter-final contest against Group F runners-up Brazil on Friday, July 30th in Rifu Japan.
Changing of the Guard
Head coach Bev Priestman made a surprising seven changes to her winning starting lineup from the game against Chile, with Christine Sinclair and Desiree Scott dropped from the 18. Also out from the previous starters were goalkeepers Kailen Sheridan, as Stephanie Labbe made her return from injury, defender Shelina Zadorsky was exchanged for Vanessa Giles, Julia Grosso and Desiree Scott made way for Quinn and Sophie Schmidt in the core of midfield, while further up the field Nichelle Prince and Jessie Fleming came out for Deanne Rose and Adriana Leon. Evelyne Viens started at striker for Canada.
Starting XI— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) July 27, 2021
: Kashima, Japan
⏰: 7am ET / 4am PT
: Great Britain
#️⃣: #CANWNT #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/haH64uq1ts
The biggest offensive chances of the first half came in the 32nd and 33rd minutes, when Great Britain got through the Canadian back line only for Labbe to turn it away. A long shot from range also failed to trouble Labbe a minute later as things were all square at zeroes at the half-time break.
Halftime saw Priestman attempt to shake things up by subbing out Janine Beckie and Deanne Rose and bringing in Jessie Fleming and Jordyn Huitema
Canada had a glorious chance on the 52nd minute mark when a sloppy turnover by Great Britian fell to Leon who saw her shot at an empty Great Britain net blocked.
In the 55th, Ashley Lawrence made a great run down the left before a speculative pass through the box came to the foot of Leon, who banged the ball in to give Canada the 1-0 lead.
Ashley Lawrence with the long run down the left side, pulls it across the box. Finds its way through to Leon buries it just under the bar!! #CANWNT #RiseHigher #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/6OKcdPMsFM— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) July 27, 2021
Caroline Weir of Great Britain found the woodwork twice on the same shot in the 68th when an attempt from the left struck the underside of the cross bar and then the left post before eventually bouncing back into play in a moment that had Canadian fans and players alike holding their breath.
Late goal costly again
Great Britain ramped up the pressure late, and finally managed to get the chance they needed in the 85th, when a shot from range by Weir bounced off of Kadeisha Buchanan and past a wrong-footed Labbe to tie things at one.
Canada had also conceded late in their draw against Japan, as an 84th minute goal cost them the win as well. Canada will need to learn how to close out games in a hurry if they are to progress into the medal round.
With the draw for Canada, they finish second in Group E and will take on the Group F runners-up Brazil on Friday, July 30 in Rifu, Japan at 4 a.m. EST/1 a.m. PST. Canada rotated their squad throughout the group stage, so there should be a number of fresh players to choose from in a pivotal match. Canada beat Brazil 2-1 to win bronze in 2016, but have lost twice and drawn twice in their last four matches against the South American squad, with the most recent result being a scoreless draw in a June friendly.
Brazil beat China 5-0, drew world no. 4 Netherlands 3-3 and beat Zambia 1-0 to finish second in their group.
“We’ve gone undefeated and you can’t scoff at that in an Olympics,” said Priestman after the match. “We’ve grown through the group stage. We’re facing probably a very familiar opponent in Brazil. We rested some legs and we’re ready to go.”