MONTPELLIER — It wasn’t pretty, but Canada got the job done with a huge 1-0 win over Cameroon in their first match at the World Cup. In front 10,710 at Stade de la Mosson, Kadeisha Buchanan smashed home a header just before halftime, and Canada never looked back. They now sit atop Group E with three points.
“I think we needed more than a few minutes to get the jitters and nervousness out,” Coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller said post-match. “The first game, it’s a difficult one, and a crucial one. We’ve seen already in this tournament, it’s not all the favorite teams coming out of it with all three points. I’m pretty happy with the performance, but yeah… there were some jitters.”
It was quite clear that Canada looked a little rattled in the opening half. While they dominated with 69 percent possession, passes weren’t as crisp as they could have been, and the team played rushed at times. Cameroon’s inability to hold the ball helped Canada counter with attack after attack down the flanks.
“I think there was for sure jitters,” Christine Sinclair agreed. “I think if you’re playing in a tournament like this and don’t have jitters, something’s wrong with you. Once we settled down, we had the better of the play throughout the whole game.”
Canada was able to stay composed, patient, and they stuck to what they do best, sending balls into the box from the flanks towards Sinclair, Janine Beckie, Nichelle Prince, and Sophie Schmidt. As tough as Cameroon was to break down, it was a big ask to hold Canada off for an entire match.
“I thought Cameroon did a great job of keeping it compact in the middle,” Buchanan explained. “It made it a bit difficult for us, but we did very well just being patient, and trying to open up the defense. I think we did well, keeping them on their toes.”
In her first World Cup appearance, Canadian goalkeeper Steph Labbé earned a clean sheet, although she didn’t have much to deal with, as Cameroon did not muster a strong offense. Labbé commanded her net and made sure the opposition didn’t create anything off the four corners they had.
“Coming out it was a bit nerve-wracking, I’m not going to lie,” Labbé revealed. “The past couple of weeks have been a bit stressful for me. Today, I woke up feeling the best that I have felt. It came down to game day, and I know what to do on game day, and back to my processes. Coming out I felt really strong and comfortable.”
Canada has the fifth-youngest team at the World Cup. Labbé, Beckie, Prince, and Shelina Zadorsky all made their World Cup debuts, and despite the jumpy start, Canada got the result they wanted. Sinclair didn’t score, but she and her teammates generated several chances to blow the match open.
“Yeah, it was a great game,” Schmidt said. “First game against Cameroon, it was a bit of an unknown. I thought that we had a good performance, a bit nervy, but I’m glad we came out with three points.”
Canada still has a lot of work to do, but they head into their next Group E match, against New Zealand, with three points. They can build off the confidence they gained against Cameroon and look to grow and develop as the tournament continues.
It wasn’t a Picasso for Canada, but it was a hard-fought win in the pouring rain at the World Cup.
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