Canada expects a stiffer challenge from Australia in women’s soccer rematch

Photo: The Canadian Press

Canada is expecting a response from a motivated Australia when the teams meet Tuesday in Sydney in the second game of their women’s soccer friendly series.

The seventh-ranked Canadians won 1-0 when the teams met Saturday at Suncorp Stadium, thanks to an 11th-minute wonder strike from distance by Manchester United forward Adriana Leon. 

The 12th-ranked Matildas, led by Chelsea star Sam Kerr, had their chances but could not beat goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. Australia coach Tony Gustavsson lamented the missed opportunities, saying after the match that his team could have scored three goals on another night.

“The Australia that I know, I think they could have another level to them,” Canada coach Bev Priestman told a virtual media call Monday.

“We’re not getting carried away and I do think that Australia have another gear to them,” she added. “And they’ll be out with a point to prove, for sure. On home soil, getting a loss and maybe not getting those chances in the back of the net. I know when you’re a Sam Kerr you come into this game very, very motivated and we have to match that for sure.”

The Canadians have a depleted roster Down Under, with their entire starting backline absent thanks to injuries to defenders Kadeisha Buchanan, Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere and Allysha Chapman, with Ashley Lawrence unavailable for personal reasons. Forward Deanne Rose is also injured.

Priestman paired veteran centre back Shelina Zadorsky with Sura Yekka flanked by Bianca St-Georges and Janine Beckie, who normally plays further forward, at fullback.

St-Georges, who plays her club football for the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars, had an outstanding game in just her fourth senior outing.

Priestman’s starting 11 Saturday featured just four starters from the 2021 Olympic final in Tokyo: captain Christine Sinclair, Jessie Fleming, Beckie and Nichelle Prince. 

Priestman deployed a new-look 4-2-3-1 formation with Fleming and Julia Grosso ahead of the back four with Prince, Sinclair and Leon behind striker Jordyn Huitema.

Canada used all six substitutes allowed, with only Jade Rose, Marie Levasseur and Quinn, who goes by one name, as unused outfield players.

Priestman said she will use six subs again Tuesday, to make the most of the two Australia fixtures.

“It’s going to be a balancing act,” she said. “I definitely want to see some players in this game. But I think at the same time I’d like to keep some momentum going with the group.”

Sinclair, the world’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 190, will earn her 317th cap if she plays Tuesday which will move her past American Carli Lloyd into sole possession of second place on the world’s all-time appearance list. Former American international Kristine Lilly leads with 354 appearances. 

Australia is also missing players.

Tuesday’s game is at the newly rebuilt Allianz Stadium, which like Suncorp Stadium will host matches at next year’s World Cup, which kicks off in July in 10 stadiums in nine host cities across Australia and New Zealand.

Canada will learn its path at the 32-country tournament at the draw in Auckland in October. 

Looking further ahead, Priestman said Canada Soccer is working on friendlies in October and November, likely outside of Canada.

“We obviously all love playing at home in front of our fans but I think at the same time we have to go where we feel we can get the fixtures,” she said.

The Matildas were beaten 1-0 by Sweden in the Olympic semifinal and finished fourth in Tokyo after losing 1-0 to the U.S. in the bronze-medal game. Canada won gold, dispatching the Swedes 3-2 in a penalty shootout after the game finished knotted at 1-1. 

Saturday’s game was the first for Canada since July when it qualified for the World Cup by virtue of finishing runner-up to the top-ranked Americans at the CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico. 

Canada is 7-2-3 in 2022, losing 1-0 to No. 8 Spain at the Arnold Clark Cup in February and 1-0 to the U.S. at the CONCACAF W Championship. 

While the all-time series between Canada and Australia is knotted at 7-7-3, the Canadians have lost just two of the last 10 meetings (6-2-2).

Australia won 2-1 the last time the two played in Sydney, in May 2008.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2022.