Netherlands 2 Canada 1
REIMS, France — Canada got a wake-up call at the Women’s World Cup on Thursday, paying for a slow start and some defensive lapses with a 2-1 loss to the European champion Netherlands in their final preliminary-round game.
Both teams had already booked their ticket to the knockout round of 16. But it was the eighth-ranked Dutch celebrating after the match before a largely orange-clad crowd of 19,277 at Stade Auguste-Delaune while the fifth-ranked Canadians wondered why it took them so long to get their game going.
“I didn’t think we were good enough,” said forward Janine Beckie, never one to sugar-coat a pill. “I think the goals they got we gave them.”
“We’ll be pissed off about it tonight and we’ll reset (Friday) and get ready for whoever’s next,” she added.
“Definitely disappointing,” added midfielder Desiree Scott. “I think we came out a bit flat to start.”
“I just think this game was a step-up in level from the first two games (against No. 46 Cameroon and No. 19 New Zealand) and a little bit of a wake-up call for us,” said captain Christine Sinclair, who scored career goal No. 182 in a losing cause. “It just took us a little bit to get into the game and that can’t happen against the best teams in the world.”
The Canadians make the short trip to Paris to face No. 9 Sweden on Monday. The Swedes lost 2-0 to the top-ranked Americans later Thursday to decide the Group F winner.
Canada is 5-12-3 all-time against Sweden although it is 3-2-3 over the last eight meetings dating back to November 2011. The teams tied 0-0 last time out in March at the Algarve Cup.
The Canadian road gets harder as the Group E runner-up. Should they beat the Swedes, No. 2 Germany likely will loom in the quarterfinals.
The Dutch head to Rennes to face No. 7 Japan, the Group D runner-up.
“It’s really tough to go through this tournament and win seven games,” said Beckie. “But we can’t lose from now on or that means we’re going home. Good to get the loss out of the way now is the way I think.”
Sinclair made history in the loss, joining Brazil’s Marta as the only players to score in five World Cups.
Sinclair’s 60th-minute goal, which tied it at 1-1, came courtesy of a pinpoint Ashley Lawrence cross that carved open the Dutch defence. The sliding Sinclair beat her defender and poked the ball in at the far post.
The 36-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., is now three goals from surpassing Abby Wambach’s world record of 184. The goal, in Sinclair’s 285th outing for Canada, came 7,037 days after she opened her account for Canada — March 14, 2000, in a 2-1 loss to Norway at the Algarve Cup.
Midfielder Sophie Schmidt and Sinclair, who are roommates on the road, predict goal-scorers for each game. Sinclair, who hit two goalposts against New Zealand, picked herself this time, according to Schmidt.
There was drama on the field from the get-go with French referee Stephanie Frappart pointing to the spot one minute in when Beckie, after tangling with defender Desiree van Lunteren, tumbled to the ground just inside the penalty box.
As Sinclair waited for the spot kick, the call went to video review and after a delay of some four minutes, the call was downgraded to a free kick just outside the box. Sinclair’s free kick hit the Dutch wall, to the relief of the Dutch hordes behind the goal.
The Dutch players took a deep breath, reloaded and took the game to the Canadians the rest of the half.
“We lost the ball too often too early … These teams if you give them an inch they’ll take a yard,” said Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller.
The Dutch were finally rewarded for their efforts in the 54th minute on a majestic header by defender Anouk Dekker off a well-placed Sherida Spitse free kick earned when Ashley Lawrence had to cut down a Dutch attacker. Dekker lost markers Kadeisha Buchanan and Sinclair, rising high to head the ball into the corner.
Substitute Lineth Beerensteyn scored the winner in the 75th minute, evading the Canadian defence to knock in a cross from close range.
Dekker’s goal ended Canada’s 477-minute shutout streak, dating back to a 2-1 win over Nigeria on April 8. Beerensteyn’s strike ended Canada’s 10-game unbeaten streak (7-0-3), dating back to last October. Canada had yielded just one goal in those 10 matches.
The Canadians came on in the second half with substitutes Adriana Leon, Jayde Riviere and Rebecca Quinn injecting energy. For Quinn, it was her 50th cap.
Canada pressed for an equalizer and Beckie had a chance to tie it in the 83rd minute but her header went wide.
“We played a whole lot better in the second half,” said Schmidt.
But Canada, fielding arguably its strongest lineup, had no answers for the Dutch at times.
“They were just able to do things against us that we haven’t let happen, not just in this tournament but I’d say this whole year,” said Sinclair. “They were able to play through us at times. Sometimes we got a little stretched. And we pride ourselves on being tight and compact.”
When the Dutch cut through the Canadian defence, Vivianne Miedema was waiting. While not bursting with speed, the Arsenal striker — who at 22 already leads her country with 60 goals — is pure class on the ball. “One heck of a soccer IQ,” said Schmidt.
Miedema showed that when she hit the goalpost in the 33rd minute, separating herself from defender Shelina Zadorsky with an elegant turn to make room for the shot.
And marauding Dutch winger Shanice van de Senden gave fullback Allysha Chapman all she could handle for 69 minutes before the bulldog-like Canadian was substituted.
Canada and the Netherlands arrived with near identical records after beating No. 19 New Zealand and No. 46 Cameroon. Both teams had six points and a goal difference of plus-three. But the European champion Dutch had the tiebreaker by virtue of having scored one more goal, meaning Canada needed a win to top the group.
With Reims some 400 kilometres from the Dutch border, Stade Auguste-Delaune was a sea of orange with the occasional pocket of red. The Holland chants started before the player introductions, with the outnumbered Canadians launching their own cheers.
The Dutch supporters brought their own band, adding to the party-like atmosphere.
Heiner-Moller gave teenage forward Jordyn Huitema her first taste of the World Cup. The 18-year-old replaced Nichelle Prince, whose leg was strapped at training this week. Chapman, who played just 15 minutes off the bench last time out, reclaimed her starting spot at fullback.
Canada had not lost to the Netherlands in 12 prior meetings (9-0-3). The Canadians won 2-1 the last time they met — 2-1 in Eindhoven in April 2016 — and the teams tied 1-1 at the 2015 World Cup in Montreal.
The Canadian women were looking to win all three preliminary-round games for the first time in seven trips to the tournament. Canada won three straight — two in group play and a quarterfinal — in 2003 when it finished a career-best fourth.