VANCOUVER, British Columbia — England is headed to the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup for the first time ever after beating host Canada, 2-1 on Saturday in front of a tournament-high crowd of 54,027 fans at BC Place.
The Lionesses got off to a quick start thanks to first half goals from Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze and they never looked back.
“To come here under the pressure that we’re under against 50,000 Canadians, against the home nation, everything was against us today,” England captain Steph Houghton said. “And to be able to go 2-0 up in the first 15 minutes was credit to all the girls. There’s a great belief in this squad. It’s a historic moment for English football to be able to get to a semifinal in a World Cup.”
It will be England vs. Japan in the semifinal on Wednesday in Edmonton, Alberta, with a spot at the World Cup final match at stake. Germany and the United States play in the other semifinal on Tuesday in Montreal.
For Canada, the loss meant a heartbreaking ending on home soil.
“Obviously it’s not how we wanted the tournament to end,” Canada captain Christine Sinclair said. “Anytime you get knocked out of a tournament your upset. Especially when I thought we didn’t deserve to go out like that tonight.”
England got off to a brilliant start by smashing a pair of quick goals past Erin McLeod and a shambolic Canadian back line. Canada defender Lauren Sesselmann has been all over the map during the World Cup with her shaky and unconvincing play. Sesselmann was stripped of the ball in midfield by Jodie Taylor. The Portland Thorns forward turned Allysha Chapman inside and out while racing in on goal. Taylor deposited the ball past McLeod for an early 1-0 advantage.
As if things could not get worse for the host nation, they did. A free kick from Fara Williams found an unmarked Lucy Bronze at the back post. The England right back headed the ball off the bottom of the bar and past McLeod for her second goal in as many matches.
Fourteen minutes in and Canada was down 2-0. This was the first time the Red and White had to come back trailing in a match. Melissa Tancredi’s first half misses from in close could have absolutely changed the complexion of the match had she converted. England gave Canada all sorts of problems in the opening forty-five and John Herdman’s players looked completely shocked.
Canada was given a lifeline in the 42nd minute when they cut the deficit in half. Ashley Lawrence spun away from her defender and fired a low shot on target that England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was not able to control. The ball was dangerously left in the path of Sinclair and the Canadian skipper scored and earned a thunderous cheer. Canada was back in the match before halftime.
Canada coach John Herdman elected to keep Sesselmann in the match and did not make any changes before the second half. It was in fact England that made the first substitution. Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was forced to exit the match with what an apparent eye injury. Siobhan Chamberlain entered with her team on the brink of a semifinal birth.
The long-awaited return of Diana Matheson finally happened for Canada. Realizing Canada need more offensively in a win or go home match, Herdman gave Matheson the green light for her first match action since October 2014 after tearing her ACL and suffering a foot fracture in her comeback. The midfielder came on to a huge roar in the 62nd minute for Wilkinson. Josee Belanger shifted back into a fullback position while Matheson controlled the right flank.
Adriana Leon and Sophie Schmidt both had late chances in close, but nothing really tested Chamberlain. For the second consecutive England match, it was Bronze scoring the match-winner. The fullback earned the heroics in hostile territory.
Canada’s World Cup dream came to an end.
Sinclair is proud of the way her teammates played during the World Cup. The future is bright for Canada, but at the moment, this loss to England will take a while to recover from.
“I’m proud of them,” she said of her teammates. “You look around the stadium and there’s fifty odd thousand people wearing Canada jerseys. The young kids now dream of representing Canada, and we did that. This one stings, but in the grand scheme of things this tournament was a huge success.”
Injured England player Jordan Nobbs was not able to recover from her hamstring injury to participate in the match. Nobbs has been sidelined for much of the World Cup. The England vice-captain talked about emotions from the sidelines as she watched a victorious England.
“It’s never racking watching the girls,” she said. “There’s a whole 23 that have played a massive part in this tournament. I think nearly everyone one of us in the squad have been in the squad at some point. I just think it shows the strength in our squad. We’re behind each others backs through and through.”
Now, its on to the semifinals for England.
Canada Starting XI: Erin McLeod; Allysha Chapman, Lauren Sesselmann, Kadeisha Buchanan, Rhian Wilkinson (Diana Matheson 62); Ashley Lawrence, Desiree Scott (Kaylyn Kyle 77), Sophie Schmidt; Melissa Tancredi (Adriana Leon 71), Christine Sinclair(C), Josee Belanger. (4-4-3)
England Starting XI: Karen Bardsley (Siobhan Chamberlain 51); Claire Rafferty, Laura Bassett, Steph Houghton(C), Lucy Bronze; Fara Williams (Ellen White 78); Jill Scott, Katie Chapman, Jade Moore; Karen Carney (Casey Stoney 90+3), Jodie Taylor. (4-1-3-2)
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