Host Canada opens with win after late penalty kick
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Canada escaped with three points off a 1-0 victory over China after Christine Sinclair slotted a penalty kick two minutes into stoppage time. Here are three quick observations from the opening game of the Women's World Cup in Edmonton, Alberta, on Saturday.
1. Turf not a huge issue
The World Cup being played on artificial turf was one of the biggest issues coming into the tournament. Dozens of women's soccer players -- including Abby Wambach of the United States and Marta of Brazil -- filed a lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association alleging discrimination this past winter, saying that the men's teams would never have to play on an artificial surface (this is the first World Cup, men's or women's, to be played on turf). The lawsuit was dropped in January, and for the first night of the World Cup, at least, the turf did not seem to play a big factor aside from an overabundance of rubber crumbs that made the field look black in some spots.
Yes, the ball moved faster, but Canada's sloppy play for much of 90 minutes was the story Saturday night (if anyone should be used to playing on turf, it's Canada's national team, but the artificial surface shouldn't be blamed for the team's inability to keep possession). The real question will be how the players' bodies respond to playing on the turf as the World Cup progresses.
2. China not to be trifled with
For an inexperienced team that didn't qualify for the 2011 World Cup or the 2012 Olympics, China was not fazed by the big stage Saturday night. It used a solid defense -- the Chinese women were well organized and played compact -- to stymie the Canadians, reminiscent of its strong play in a 2-1 loss to sixth-ranked England in April.
And while Canada seemed to have the advantage late -- China didn't spend much time in its offensive third in the second half -- Sinclair's score was the latest go-ahead goal ever in regulation of a Women's World Cup match.
3. Sinclair is still Canada's sweetheart
Possibly the most beloved female athlete in Canada, Sinclair became the seventh player to score at four different Women's World Cups. Canada was awarded the penalty kick when Adriana Leon was fouled in the box by Rong Zhao.
Saturday also marked the first victory in six Women's World Cup openers for Canada.