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2019 Women's World Cup

Get in formation: Canada stifles New Zealand with 3-5-2

GRENOBLE, France – A tactical, in-game decision helped Canada earn a massive 2-0 win over New Zealand at the World Cup. Jessie Fleming and Nichelle Prince capitalized on sloppy defending from the Football Ferns as Canada broke through to take all three points and advance to the knockout stage of the World Cup.

Canada started the match in a familiar 4-3-3 formation, but that was only a formality. Looking to catch New Zealand by surprise, Canada switched to a hybrid 3-5-2 formation, allowing for more flexibility and increased distribution from the full backs.

Sophie Schmidt – Kadeisha Buchanan – Shelina Zadorsky.

Janine Beckie – Ashley Lawrence – Desiree Scott – Jessie Fleming – Jayde Riviere.

Nichelle Prince – Christine Sinclair.

“That was planned,” Coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller explained to reporters post-match. “We were looking at options of our structure. If they do this, then we do that. We were quite positive that they were defending with a 4-1-4-1. The players they had on the pitch, we saw when there was some opportunities. It’s the players they have, in the positions they have. We wanted to see in the first ten minutes, what they were actually doing, and then seeing if we could hurt them a little bit with the five midfield.”

Canada’s tactical switch made the difference,\ because they kept possession by outnumbering New Zealand in the midfield. On the rare occasions that Canada lost the ball, they were quicker to regain possession, and New Zealand could not counter.

“We switched to three at the back part way through the first half,” Christine Sinclair explained. “Just sort of our plan heading into the game, to throw something different at New Zealand, knowing that they’re a very compact and organized team. We looked to expose them on the wing a little bit.”

Canada’s ability to move players around by mixing and matching has given them another dimension. There isn’t a set style of play that Canada can be boxed into. Opponents are quickly finding out that Canada can come at you with a variety of tactical strategies.

“We think we’ve got the players to play in different ways and different structures,” Heiner-Møller revealed. “We’ve been working very hard to make this work. I think we definitely reached another level on the way we can approach, and get around some of the defending structures. This was the team we played against, that we found this formation structure beneficial. It was about taking the front two out, and I think we did a very good job.”

While New Zealand were able to bunker and hold Canada off the scoresheet in the first half, they could not sustain that type of work rate for an entire match. Canada continued to apply pressure, and attack in numbers. New Zealand had defensive lapses that they didn’t have in the first half.

Canada’s captain knew it was only a matter of time “When you can put a team under that much pressure for forty-five minutes and continue it on, they’re bound to get fatigued. I think you saw that start to happen. Those little gaps started to open up. They weren’t there in the first half. We were able to get more dangerous crosses in. It’s a tough game, sometimes you have to earn those chances early in the game.”

How was Canada able to execute a new formation so successfully in a high stakes match?

“I think it’s just the numbers out wide,” Buchanan told The Equalizer. “That’s where the space was, and that’s where we put numbers to create opportunities for crosses. To really go at them, down the side. It was good that we went to that formation.”

“We’ve been working on that for a while,” Prince shared with reporters. “It allows us to get numbers up, and people in the box. We have those fast wingers that can get up and down the field. That opened up a lot of width, and space out wide to get crosses in.”

New Zealand goalkeeper, Erin Nayler earned a clean sheet when Canada and New Zealand played to a nil-nil draw at the 2015 World Cup. After keeping the Football Ferns out of trouble early on, Nayler didn’t get enough help defensively in the second half.

“I think we didn’t play very well today,” Nayler told reporters in the mix zone. “I would say unorganized. We weren’t winning our individual battles at all. We were a little bit of a mess all over pitch, and I don’t know why that is. I guess we’ll look at that over the next few days.”

In a World Cup match, New Zealand should have had an answer for Canada’s 3-5-2 switch.

“We’ve played that formation a bit during our build up,” Nayler admitted. “We’ve kind of swapped and changed a little bit. We kind of knew what we were doing, but I guess maybe we weren’t prepared for it. I think we need to change something going forward into this next game.”

Canada was able to get in formation, and that’s why they’re 2-0-0 at the World Cup. The Netherlands are up next on Thursday, June 20 in Reims. Who knows what formation Canada will have in store for the 2-0-0, European Cup holders.


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