Christine Sinclair’s controversial late penalty got hosts Canada off to a winning start at the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Saturday with a 1-0 win over China, as the Netherlands beat New Zealand by the same scoreline.
The Group A doubleheader in Edmonton kicked off four weeks of soccer across Canada and was preceded by an opening ceremony in front of a packed and passionate crowd of 53,038 at the Commonwealth Stadium.
The party atmosphere amid a sea of red-and-white flags was complete when 31-year-old Sinclair stepped up two minutes into stoppage-time to slot in a penalty awarded for a foul in the penalty areas on substitute Adriana Leon by Zhao Rong.
Photo: Jason Franson / The Canadian Press via AP
It was Canada captain Sinclair’s 154th goal in 224 internationals.
“Only one woman in the world could step up like that in the 90th minute and write that script,” Canada coach John Herdman said. “I’m glad we could sneak a win. We have the three points and are on the road.”
Midfielder Sophie Schmidt, voted player of the match, described Sinclair as an “inspiration.”
“She’s our captain, no doubt about it, and there was no doubt in my mind that she was going to put it away,” Schmidt said. “She’s one of the best strikers in the world, if not the best. It was just an amazing atmosphere out there today and to kick off the World Cup in front of 50,000-plus fans is just something else.”
Canada, the Olympic bronze medalists, had been desperate for all three points to set themselves up as challengers at their home tournament.
For the young China team, nicknamed the Steel Roses, it was a first defeat in their opening match of a World Cup.
The hosts started strongly when centerback Kadeisha Buchanan had two early shots at the back post, but both were blocked by goalkeeper Wang Fei, with her opposite number Erin McLeod then blocking a shot by Yasha Gu, with a Wang Lisi effort hitting the post.
However, just as the match seemed certain to end in stalemate, Zhao fouled substitute Leon and Sinclair slotted the penalty home to the delight of the crowd.
Herdman claimed that China seemed to be playing for a draw, with goalkeeper Wang jeered several times by the crowd as she appeared to take her time over goal-kicks.
“The Chinese came for a draw and were killing time in the first 20 minutes of the game,” he said.
China coach Hao Wei refused to be drawn on that or the harsh penalty.
“It’s a real pity, but we’re here to play the game,” Hao said. “We respect the referee’s judgement. Whether it was a foul or not we’ll have to watch the video replay. I think within two days we will be able to regroup mentally to be able to challenge in our next games. I have no doubt about that.”
In Saturday’s second match, Lieke Martens gave newcomers the Netherlands their first World Cup finals goal, condemning New Zealand to a 10th defeat in as many games spanning three editions of the tournament.
Martens’ superb 33rd-minute strike from outside the penalty area was her 21st goal for the Oranje Leeuwinnen.
It left Erin Nayler, 22, with no chance in the New Zealand goal.
“It’s a dream come true,” 22-year-old Martens said. “As a girl you dream of scoring a goal at the World Cup.”
New Zealand coach Tony Readings put the result down to “one piece of brilliance from a player we knew would be a problem.”
The Netherlands, playing in their first ever World Cup finals, next face China, with New Zealand facing Canada on Thursday.
Yesterday’s second day of competition was in Ottawa, where in Group B top-ranked Germany were to open their campaign for a third crown against world No. 67 the Ivory Coast, while Asian minnows Thailand were due to take on former winners Norway.
DRIVING AMBITION: ‘I was excited by playing at the Olympics ... Who knows what’s going to happen? Hopefully, I could have a chance to win a medal,’ Tiffany Chan said After just three tournaments this year, a chance of Olympic glory postponed and two weeks alone in quarantine, golfer Tiffany Chan could be forgiven for feeling sorry for herself. Instead, Hong Kong’s first LPGA Tour player is sporting a broad grin and taking the positives from the game’s COVID-19 shutdown, determined to establish herself in the fiercely competitive world of women’s golf. The talented 26-year-old kept herself fit physically and mentally during the lockdown, and is happy to be back on the fairways since the easing of coronavirus restrictions last month. “When I came back to Hong Kong [in March], I actually did
Eleven-year-old skateboarder Sky Brown, who is hoping to become Britain’s youngest Olympian next year, fractured her skull and broke bones in her left hand after falling from a ramp during a training session in California. Brown posted a video of the accident on Instagram, but reassured supporters that she was fine. “I don’t usually post my falls or talk about them ... but this was my worst fall. I just want everyone to know that it’s OK — don’t worry, I’m OK,” she said. “I’m going to push boundaries for girls with my skating and surfing. I’m going for gold in 2021
It is the land of the world champions, but is it really a soccer country? That is the question that some in France have been asking this week while its European neighbors work to bring the sport back after the COVID-19 shutdown. Debate has raged ever since Ligue 1 decided in late April to bring a premature end to the season with 10 rounds of matches unplayed. By contrast, two weeks have passed since the Bundesliga restarted, while Italian Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora on Thursday confirmed that Serie A would return on June 20, and La Liga and the English Premier
A feel-good campaign allowing fans to have cardboard cutouts of themselves at Australian rugby league games has been hijacked by pranksters, with a notorious serial killer among those making an appearance — while one TV show edited an image of Adolf Hitler into the crowd. The NRL launched “Fan In The Stand” to coincide with the sport’s return at the weekend after its season was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporters are barred from stadiums under strict health protocols, but can pay A$22 (US$15) to have their photograph printed on a life-size cutout and placed in the stands of