Preview: Canada shifts focus to New Zealand in Women’s World Cup

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Preview (June 15, 2019) — Canada will look to build on their 1-0 victory over Cameroon with another solid performance against New Zealand on Saturday. Canada was good defensively against the Indomitable Lionesses and are now tasked with facing an equally defensive minded team in New Zealand.

New Zealand are more than capable of pulling off an upset every now and again. However, the Football Ferns lack real consistency. Canada will do their best to ensure that upset will have to wait another day.

New Zealand nearly had the perfect start to group play on Tuesday. They held Netherlands scoreless through the first 90 minutes of the match before conceding a heartbreaking goal in stoppage time to undo an otherwise effective effort. The Dutch outplayed them, but New Zealand was just a couple minutes away from stealing a point. Canada will need to be more efficient offensively than Netherlands was and not wait until stoppage time to score.

The Match

On paper these two teams have quite similar tactics. Both are stronger sides defensively and have problems producing goals from time to time. However, Canada are a lot more consistent. Les Rouges are ranked fifth in the world for a reason. Even if their offense isn’t always firing they can rely on a steady backline.

The recipe for New Zealand to steal a point or three is similar to Cameroon’s method. Canada will possess the ball for long periods of time once again and New Zealand’s first and foremost task will be to not concede a goal. When New Zealand get the ball they will look to counter-attack, trying to catch Canada out of shape defensively.

New Zealand’s Defense

New Zealand’s biggest strength is their backline. In their opener against Netherlands they featured players who play their club soccer in England, Sweden, Norway, France and the NWSL. Captain Ali Riley leads the way, playing for Chelsea. Born in the USA, she started her career with Stanford in NCAA before heading abroad.

A face NWSL fans will have heard of is Abby Erceg. Currently playing for the North Carolina Courage, the defender has bounced around throughout different NWSL clubs. She played for both Chicago and New York before finding a home with the Courage. She also has 135 international caps representing her country. With New Zealand likely to spend a lot of time defending, all eyes will be on her.

Canadian Goal Scoring Threats

The Canadians will be asking their attackers for goals in this one. Against Cameroon, it was defender Kadeisha Buchanan who scored the lone goal. This time, Canada will be looking towards the likes of Christine Sinclair, Jessie Fleming, Janine Beckie and Nichelle Prince to find offense. Those four played well against Cameroon. However, they need to turn it up a notch against a stiffer New Zealand side.

Abby Wambach’s Record

Christine Sinclair was held off the scoresheet against Cameroon, which hurt her chances to break the all-time international goal scoring record at this World Cup. Sinclair still needs three to tie and four to pass Abby Wambach. It was a real missed opportunity for Sinclair to not score against Cameroon. If she will have any hope in breaking the record she will  need to score in this match. Canada will have a real tough match against Netherlands, and after that the knockout round begins. Sinclair’s best chance to score is now.

Player to Watch: Jessie Fleming

Fleming, at just 21-years-old, has already competed in 66 caps for her country. Despite her young age, she made her senior national team debut way back in 2013. Fleming has always been one of Canada’s biggest prospects, oozing with potential. This World Cup is her chance to breakout onto the international stage. Playing her club soccer in the NCAA with UCLA, Fleming is ready to shine on an international spotlight. She played well against Cameroon, but there is no doubt more to give in her tank. Expect her to be an important piece in Canada’s attack in this one.

Player to Watch: Sarah Gregorius

Gregorius started as the lone striker in a 4-3-3 formation in New Zealand’s 1-0 loss to the Netherlands. She possesses lots of talent and has had stops in Germany and England in her club career. She spent parts of three seasons with Liverpool. Gregorius is the leader of New Zealand’s attack and her 33 international goals is the most on New Zealand’s roster. If New Zealand are going to break Canada’s shutout streak it will most likely come from her.

Prediction: Canada 1, New Zealand 0

Expect another low-scoring contest for Canada. Both of these teams have strong defenses, so goals will be hard to come by. Sinclair will no doubt be pressing to open her scoring account at this World Cup. In the end, her star power might impact the outcome of the game. Sinclair will score her first of the tournament and Canada will take a second clean sheet, winning 1-0.


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