PARIS — The round of 16 continues with a crucial match featuring Canada against Sweden at Parc des Princes on Monday. There’s a lot on the line for both teams, with the winner facing Germany in a quarterfinal match in Rennes on Saturday.
Neither Canada nor Sweden boast a powerful offense. This is a match that will most likely go down to the wire with each side having their own offensive struggles scoring goals. It would not be surprising to see a 1-0, or 0-0 scoreline with penalty kicks as a decider.
“We’ll see,” Sweden defender Nilla Fischerexplained to The Equalizer.“I think all of the games could be very tight now. It’s just so many good teams at the moment. It also depends on when the first goals will come, but it would be fun for the audience if we do a lot of goals.”
The battle within the battle, between Christine Sinclair and Fischer could make all the difference. Both captains have been the face of their respective countries for well over a decade. Paris could be the venue for a final World Cup match for one of them.
“I don’t know,” Sinclair said of playing against Fischer. “Just with positions, we end up playing against each other a lot. I have all the respect in the world for her. A world-class defender that has also had a very long career. Yeah, just looking forward to it.”
As much depth as Canada has, this is still a team that heavily depends on Sinclair to produce goals. Just two behind Abby Wambach’s all-time record of 184 goals scored, Sinclair is almost as dangerous when she’s creating open space for her teammates.
Sweden’s anchor at the back line will have to watch for Canada’s supporting cast.
“Sinclair knows a lot about the big games,” Fischer explained. “She’s a very good player, and one of the key players to try to stop. Otherwise, it’s just also good opponents that we’re playing against. I’m not surprised the goals haven’t been so high.”
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Sinclair’s goal against the Netherlands helped her join Brazil’s Marta as the only footballer to score in five World Cups. Fischer and Sweden must contain her.
“It’s always a challenge to play against her,” Fischer explained. “I think we just try to have focus on her, but not too much. They have a lot of other good players. To have the advantage on her is of course one of the keys to be able to win the game.”
Canada’s ability to bounce back from a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands will be paramount. Sweden is another top-tier opposition. Canada can’t afford to have another match where they don’t turn up. Sweden have several players with bigtournament experience.
“I think they have a lethal front three with a lot of speed,” Canada defender Shelina Zadorsky broke down Sweden. “You’ve got really really quick wingers in [Sofia] Jakobsson, and of course you’ve got [Caroline] Seger who’s their playmaker. We’ll have to nullify those threats.”
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Canada is 5-12-3 vs Sweden all-time, with a 4-3-3 record in the previous ten meetings. Sweden may have a larger football history, but it’s No. 5-ranked Canada that’s viewed as the favorite.
“It’s hard to say,” Fridolina Rolfo pondered. “I think Canada is better on the ranking. Probably them, because they have a better ranking. I think we have a good team, and we’ve been doing great in tournaments, so hopefully we are the favorites.”
“I would say Canada,” Hanna Glas admitted. “They’re higher ranked and have come further than us at the last World Cup. I would say Canada.”
As teams progress further into the World Cup, the fear of having to take a penalty crops up. Canada and Sweden’s last match went to penalties at the Algarve Cup in March. A scoreless match was won by Canada, 6-5 after Glas missed her penalty.
“We’re expecting a really tight game,” Glas said. “We know that they’re a good team, but so are we. We played against them two times. They have also been very tight games. I’m expecting it also will be tight, and maybe one goal will advance, and win for us.”
You never know who is going to be the hero, and who is going to fall under pressure. Nobody wants to send a Sam Kerr attempt sky high. While some teams select players for penalties, others go with a volunteer approach.
If it comes down to penalties, Zadorsky will ready. “Personally I let our forwards do the scoring most of the time, so go right ahead, strikers. If called upon, I would definitely do it.”
“It’s always a good feeling if you manage to put the penalty in,” Fischer said. “I’d rather choose that we win the game before that.”
It’s going to be a challenging football match for both sides. Quality defense from both teams will be on display. One mistake will make all the difference for Canada or Sweden.