Editorial (June 18, 2019) — Task number one is complete for Canadian head coach Kenneth Heiener-Møller at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Canada punched their ticket to the Round of 16 on Saturday thanks to a dominant 2-0 win over New Zealand.
Jessie Fleming stepped up and scored her first World Cup goal in the 48th minute. Nichelle Prince doubled the lead in the 78th minute and Canada never looked back. It was another win and another clean sheet for Canada, something Møller will be proud of.
Lock down defense
The Canadians gave New Zealand very little hope of scoring. New Zealand struggled to even cross the halfway line at points throughout the match. Having to defend for only 30 percent of the match, Canada was effective and efficient in keeping New Zealand away from goal. Canada focused on shutting down New Zealand striker Sarah Gregorius. She was completely isolated from the match and never really got much time on the ball. She was substituted off around the 60th minute.
Canada’s identity has become a strong defensive team and they have proven just that. New Zealand registered a measly two shots, with none of them on target. Canada will likely go as far as their defense will take them. It’s been positive to see Canada hold strong so far. However, there are much tougher tests to come, including a matchup with Netherlands on Thursday.
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) June 15, 2019
Dominant possession numbers
Canada controlled the flow of the game from start to finish. The final stats saw Canada with 70 percent possession and 22 shot attempts. For the duration of the match, the Canadians played slow and methodical. However, they played with a lot of patience and looked in no hurry to score right away.
Instead, Canada controlled the ball and calmly waited to break down New Zealand’s defense. It’s a tempo that might not be the most entertaining to watch, but it has been effective so far. While the game went 0-0 into halftime, Canada was the only side with any threatening chances on offense.
Canada opened the floodgates to open up the second half. Fleming found the back of the net and the patient Canadians found their goal. Afterwards, Canada created multiple chances thanks to their long spells of possession and, if not for Erin Nayler in net, it could have gotten worse for the Football Ferns.
Nichelle Prince and Christine Sinclair found themselves getting chance after chance, with Nayler holding strong. It took until the 78th minute for Canada to get another one past Nayler. That was enough to yield a 2-0 victory. Canada was rewarded for their patience in attack and their stronghold on the possession front.
✨Q U A L I F I E D ✨for the Round of 16 with the squad! SO Proud of the team performance we put in yesterday! Off to Reins now to shift focus to game 3! #CanWNT #Together #Hype #FIFAWWC pic.twitter.com/brwzbt2Q68
— Desiree Scott (@MsDScott11) June 16, 2019
Canada started this game with traditional 4-3-3 formation. However, they switched it up throughout the match.
Fullbacks Jayde Riviere and Ashley Lawrence spent some time higher up the pitch as Canada also featured a 3-5-2 at times. Midfielder Sophie Schmidt dropped back into the role of the third centre back. Meanwhile, Canada was able to keep New Zealand guessing. It’s a huge benefit when players are comfortable playing in different positions on the pitch. Over the course of the game, Canadian players saw many others have opportunity to get forward and to create something with the possession coming in bulk.
This also bodes well for later on in the tournament. If a Canadian players get injured, sent off or suspended, Canada still has plenty of options. Lots of teams don’t feature that same kind of flexibility and that can hurt later on in a tournament like this. None of the players looked uncomfortable or out of place. It’s a huge benefit to be able to switch the way the attacked looked for Canada.
Prince was active in creating chances against Cameroon and delivered again against New Zealand. She registered a goal and an assist. Prince wasn’t afraid to take on defenders 1v1 and even 1v2 down the wing. She got her assist on Fleming’s goal after taking on two defenders. In addition to that, she always found herself in good positions to score. She was all over the attack, especially in the second half. Overall, she tallied six shots, with three of them reaching the target. Her goal wasn’t necessarily too pretty but they all count the same. Prince continued her good start to the World Cup.
Shot Charts + xG
Canada on top, New Zealand on bottom.
3.60 – Canada
0.06 – New Zealand
Individual xG Leader – Nichelle Prince (CAN) – 1.32 pic.twitter.com/LcljkEluja
— Chris Henderson (@chris_awk) June 15, 2019
Fleming was great in the midfield for Canada. She played a very consistent and reliable 90 minutes for Canada. She did well to time her run on her first goal at a Women’s World Cup. Overall, her and Janine Beckie both shared time as the playmaker, orchestrating the Canadian attack. It was nice to see some of Canada’s depth show up and efforts like this from both Fleming and Prince are encouraging heading into some tougher matches upcoming.
Riviere looked extremely poised for an 18-year-old making her World Cup debut. She looked confident in possession and provided some decent supporting runs for Canada out wide. Riviere spent her time as both a fullback and a wide midfielder, as Canada featured a few different formations. She looked promising in both roles and looks to be a future star in the making. Getting a start at the World Cup at her age is not small feat and she is certainly one to watch for the future.
Less than two years ago, 18-year old Jayde Riviere was playing youth soccer in Markham. Today, she has been one of #CanWNT‘s most self-assured players as she presses up the pitch in her World Cup debut. Crazy.
— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) June 15, 2019
Canada dominated this match in all aspects.
Despite being favored to win, no one expected Canada to be this dominant. Stephanie Labbé had another easy clean sheet. The Canadians should be proud of how they’ve played the first two matches.
However, the work is not done yet.
Next, they face the Netherlands with first place Group E on the line. This will be the first match where Canada are not favorites to win and it will be interesting to see how they hold up against a high-caliber Dutch side. They need a win to finish on top of the group, which would be a big accomplishment heading into the Round of 16.