• Netherlands 2 (Dekker 54’, Beerensteyn 75’), Canada 1 (Sinclair 60’)
• Reigning European champs hand Canada its first loss in France
• Sinclair nets 182nd career goal; 2 away from tying record
After breezing through its first two games at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, Canada came crashing down to earth on Thursday.
Canada suffered its first setback and conceded goals for the first time in this tournament, losing 2-1 to the Netherland in Reims. Ranked No. 5 in the world, Canada previously brushed aside Cameroon and New Zealand without too much trouble, but found the going much tougher against the eighth-ranked Dutch, who are the reigning European champions.
"I hate losing, I’ll say that. I hate losing. I hate conceding goals… But I think [this loss] might be a wake-up call, that we can’t come into a match not being right on our toes," Canadian coach Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said in the post-game press conference.
By virtue of its win the Netherlands finished first in Group E with nine points, ahead of Canada (six), Cameroon (three points) and New Zealand (zero points). Had Canada won this game, it would have finished first in the group, and met Japan in the round-of-16. Instead, Canada will play Sweden in Paris next Monday, and face a much tougher path in the knockout stages, with a potential showdown against European powerhouse Germany in the quarterfinals.
Christine Sinclair scored her 182nd goal for Canada, and is now just two away from tying retired U.S. star Abby Wambach as the all-time leading scorer in the history of international women’s soccer. Sinclair also joined Brazilian star Marta as the only players to score at five World Cup tournaments.
"I just think this game was a step-up in level from the first two games and a little bit of a wake-up call for us," Sinclair admitted. "It just took us a little bit to get into the game and that can’t happen against the best teams in the world."
This was Canada’s first loss in 13 all-time meetings against the Dutch, having won eight of the previous encounters. It was also just the second loss for Canada in its last 17 outings, ending a 10-game unbeaten streak (7-0-3) that dated back to last October.
"We haven’t lost in – I can’t even remember how long it’s been. It’s a very, very bad feeling, I tell you that," Heiner-Moller said.
Heiner-Moller made two changes to his starting line-up, handing a World Cup debut to 18-year-old striker Jordyn Huitema (her sixth start in 22 appearances) for Canada at the expense of Nichelle Prince. Huitema was part of a front three alongside Sinclair and Janine Beckie. Allysha Chapman was back at left fullback, with Jayde Riviere returning to the bench.
Stade Auguste-Delaune was a sea of orange, as it was overtaken by boisterous Dutch fans, making for a hostile environment for the Canadian team.
Canada earned a penalty inside the first minute when Desiree van Lunteren tripped up Beckie, who caused the Dutch defence plenty of problems by playing more centrally. However, the referee overturned the decision after a VAR review, and instead awarded a free kick as the foul took outside the box. Huitema appeared to give Canada the lead midway through the half, only to see her goal ruled offside.
The Dutch grew into the game, applying great pressure on the Canadians as they took over at the half hour mark. Shanice van de Sanden’s tricky cross from the flanks forced Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe to tip it onto the crossbar, and Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema expertly turned defender Shaline Zadorsky inside the box before firing a low shot that hit the far post. Labbe also scrambled out her box to deny Miedema after the ball kindly fell to her and she broke in alone on goal.
"It was an explosive start, and then it definitely levelled of a little bit from our perspective. We played a team that was prepared, they weren’t afraid, and they stepped forward when we played in and was aggressive. We lost the ball too often and too early," Heiner-Moller said of Canada’s first-half performance.
He later added: "We lost the ball too often too early … These teams, if you give them an inch then they’ll take a yard."
The deadlock was broken early in the second half when Sherida Spitse delivered a free kick deep into the box and teammate Anouk Dekker beat Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan to the ball by a split second to head it home. It was the first goal conceded by Canada at this tournament, and the first in 477 minutes in international play.
Canada didn’t lie down, and fought back. Following some nice ball movement on the edge of the box, Ashley Lawrence fed a brilliant cross to the far post, and Sinclair slid to beat van Lunteren to the ball and poke it past Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal. It was the Canadian captain’s seventh career goal against the Netherlands in international play.
Heiner-Moller made a double substitution by bringing on Adriana Leon and Riviere, taking off Sinclair and Chapman. But the Dutch retook the lead, with substitute Lineth Beerensteyn converting a low cross into the box that Labbe should have cut out.
"They were able to do things against us that we haven’t let happen, not just in this tournament but in this year," Sinclair explained in dissecting Canada’s loss.
"They were able to play through us at times. Sometimes we got a little stretched, and we pride ourselves on being tight and compact."
NOTES: Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan and Dutch forward Shanice van de Sanden are teammates at French club Olympique Lyonnais… Spitse is the Netherlands’ most capped player with 165 appearances… These teams also squared off at the 2015 World Cup, playing to a 1-1 draw in Montreal during the group stage…