Canada dominated in Grenoble as they sealed all three points against New Zealand with a 2-0 win. The Football Ferns defended astutely but just couldn’t stop an impressive Canadian attack.
The first half took a while to get going but once it did, Canada were by far the better of the two sides. 15 minutes in, New Zealand defender C.J Bott went down after the ball struck her hand. The medics rushed onto the field and after a lengthy stoppage, Bott left the field with her hand severely wrapped up. From the untrained eye, it looked as though she may have broken her finger – either way, she was replaced by Annalie Longo.
After the stoppage, Canada had the best chance of the half from the resulting corner. The ball came across and was knocked on to Christine Sinclair at the back post. Sinclair’s header cannoned off the crossbar before rebounding to Nichelle Prince who saw her effort cleared off the line – New Zealand survive.
Canada continued to push and put the Fearns’ defence under serious pressure. Unable to make their chances count, they soon came under threat themselves when Rebekah Stott led a marauding counter-attack. New Zealand drove forward at pace, played the ball out wide and put a cross into the area where Olivia Chance was waiting. The winger couldn’t quite find the composed finish necessary as the ball flew wide – Canada get away with it. The lesson was clear though, they MUST take their chances otherwise they will be punished.
It seems they did learn their lesson as less than three minutes into the second half, they eventually took a chance. The impressive Nichelle Prince powered down the left wing, taking the ball to the byline before pulling it back to Jessie Fleming who was ready and waiting to bury it – which she did very nicely to fire her side into the lead.
After the goal, the game remained pretty much the same as Canada did all the attacking and New Zealand struggled to get out of their own half. They had more than a few chances to double their lead with Christine Sinclair uncharacteristically missing a sitter as well as missed opportunities for Prince and Janine Beckie.
Canada did finally wrap it up in the 79th minute as Prince capped off what was an outstanding performance with a well deserved goal. It came as the ball was worked out to the right wing before being lifted toward Sinclair at the back stick. The veteran striker’s header struck the woodwork for the second time in the game only this time, Prince didn’t miss the rebound.
The victory for Canada sees them safely through to the knockout stages of the tournament. Their final game of the group stage will be a first place showdown with European champions, Holland. I’m already excited for that one – it should be a cracker.
On the opposite side of the ball, New Zealand have now lost both games and are yet to score a single goal. However, if they can beat Cameroon in their final game they can still qualify as one of the four best third placed sides.