Canada shuts out Cameroon in Women’s World Cup opener

Kadiesha-Buchanan

Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan (No. 3) reacts after scoring for Canada against Cameroon. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

• Canada 1 (Buchanan 45’), Cameroon 0
• Canada opens Women’s World Cup with win in Montpellier
• Buchanan’s 1st goal in 3 years propels Reds to victory

Canada is off to a winning start at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, and here’s a surprise: Christine Sinclair wasn’t the goal-scoring hero for a change.

Kadeisha Buchanan found the back of the net for Canada in a 1-0 win over Cameroon on Monday in Group E action from Montpellier, as the Reds won its opening match at the World Cup on foreign soil for the first time.

With the victory, Canada takes temporarily hold of first place in Group E with three points. The other two teams in the group, New Zealand and the Netherlands, kick off their World Cup campaigns on Tuesday when they meet in Le Havre.

Canada’s next game is June 15 versus New Zealand in Grenoble. It finishes up group stage play five days later against the Netherlands in Reims.

Canada is fifth in the current FIFA world rankings, 41 spots ahead of Cameroon. The two teams had never faced each other at senior level before Monday.

There was plenty to like from Canada in this match. The Reds remain unbeaten in 2019, with six wins in nine games and they’ve only conceded once in that stretch, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The resolute defence shut down the Cameroonians and gave away nothing, with fullback Allysha Chapman putting in a player-of-the-match effort. Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe was never tested. Desiree Scott and Sophie Schmidt were solid in defensive midfield roles, routinely breaking up Cameroon’s attacks.

“We knew that Cameroon had pace up top, and that it would be a physical battle in that sense … I think we did a great job of handling that, and contesting [for] the ball, and winning our 50/50 balls,” Buchanan offered.

Fullback Ashley Lawrence added: “We knew it was going to be a physical match. Cameroon was betting on our mistakes and I thought we handled the transition defensively very well.”

But a cause for concern is how this team still defers to Sinclair. Far too often, Canada’s attackers tried to find Sinclair in and around the box when they were in a better position to take a shot on net. Scoring chances from open play were few and far between. Also, some great buildup sequences were wasted because the finishing in the final third was lacking from Canada’s forwards against Cameroon’s park-the-bus defence.

Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller didn’t make any surprise selections, and fielded a full-strength starting 11 in a 4-3-3 formation against the Africans, with Lawrence and Chapman routinely pushing up in attack. It was essentially the same lineup Heiner-Møller used in last month’s 3-0 win over Mexico in Toronto, with the only change being Buchanan coming in for fellow central defender Rebecca Quinn.

Canada dominated possession in the first half (69 per cent) and looked to play the ball forward, while Cameroon was intent on stopping their opponents by defending in numbers, and hitting out on the counter-attack. The Reds never really came close to scoring until late in the half when winger Nichelle Prince’s angled shot off a great pass across the box from Chapman hit a Cameroonian defender and deflected off the post.

In total, Canada took seven shots against the defensively-determined Africans before finding the breakthrough just before halftime. Prince did well to earn a corner kick, and forward Janine Beckie delivered a great ball to the far post where Buchanan ran onto it and headed it home. It was Buchanan’s fourth goal for Canada, and first at the World Cup, in 90 appearances. It was also Buchanan’s first goal for Canada in over three years.

The second half followed the same pattern as the opening 45 minutes, with Canada trying to pass its way through and around the Cameroonians, and the Africans putting as many bodies as they could behind the ball when defending, and looking to attack in transition moments.

Sinclair had a chance to pad Canada’s lead in the 88th minute, but the iconic captain’s attempt was cleared off the line by a Cameroonian defender. Sinclair remains on 181 goals for Canada, just three away from tying retired U.S. star Abby Wambach as the all-time leading scorer in the history of international women’s soccer.

NOTES: Beckie, Prince, forward Deanne Rose, defender Shelina Zadorsky and Labbe all made their World Cup debuts in this game… Cameroon’s only previous World Cup appearance was in 2015 in Canada when it advanced to the Round of 16.

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