England eliminates host Canada, makes first semifinal
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- There were 54,027 fans inside BC Place Stadium on Saturday afternoon, almost all wearing Canadian red-and-white apparel for their country's quarterfinal against England. And they went home very disappointed when England scored two early goals and then held on to win 2-1 to advance to the semifinal and send Canada out of the Women's World Cup.
The loss left England celebrating and Canada bent over in frustration. Here are three observations on the match.
1. Tough defense
Canada allowed only one goal in its first four matches this World Cup but allowed two in the first 15 minutes Saturday against England. Chalk those goals up to some sloppy defense as much as England's offense. Defender Lauren Sesselmann particularly stood out. She wasn't much help defending on the first goal, and her foul set up a free kick that resulted in the second goal.
"There were a few mistakes tonight. I'm not going to hide from the mistakes our players made,'' Canada coach John Herdman said. "You can imagine what was going through her [Sesselmann's] head. But she kept on fighting. She had a rocky five minutes after the mistake, but she kept on fighting.''
Canada's defense improved after that, but it also trailed 2-0, and no team had ever come back from that deficit in the knockout stage of the Women's World Cup. And still hasn't.
2. Sinclair scores
Christine Sinclair, has played in 228 international matches and scored 155 goals for Canada and is featured on a postage stamp and commercials here. But she had had an average to disappointing World Cup this tournament until driving in a rebound off goalkeeper Karen Bardsley to get Canada back in the match in the 42nd minute. That cut the score to 2-1 and got the crowd roaring, with Sinclair thrusting her fist high following the goal.
Nonetheless, Canada lost, and Herdman said Sinclair was so disappointed by the defeat that she apologized to him after the match. "She can't say she's sorry,'' Herdman said. "She was just a legend of the game tonight. She was just outstanding. She answered some of her critics and stood up in the big moment when she needed to.''
3. Scalpers probably disappointed by Canada loss, as well
Attendance has been very strong for Canada's games -- the national team twice drew more than 54,000 in Vancouver -- but the crowds haven't been that stupendous for games involving everyone else other than the United States. How will Canada's absence affect the three remaining matches? It still should be solid for the final in Vancouver if that includes the U.S., which drew 52,000 for its group stage match here (Seattle is a short drive, barring border waits). But Edmonton, which is hosting the semifinal Canada would have played in, had less than 20,000 for Saturday's quarterfinal between Japan and Australia. We'll see how Wednesday's semifinal between England and Japan does.