Canada’s National Women’s Team take chunks in exhibition win over Argentina

As a developing nation in women’s soccer, Argentina lack the talent to match Canada on the pitch, so they tried to make up the difference by defending with numbers and attacking with extreme bias.

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Preparing to be frustrated seemed to be the lesson for Canada’s National Women’s Soccer Team during an exhibition match against Argentina in Cadiz, Spain on Thursday.

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As a developing nation in women’s soccer, Argentina lack the talent to match Canada on the pitch, so they tried to make up the difference by defending with numbers and attacking with extreme bias.

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Canada managed to win 2-0 at the Estadio Sanluqueño but had to work hard for victory and needed plenty of ice bags after the game.

“I think we had exactly the same thing the last time we played Argentina, so we were prepared,” said Canada head coach Bev Priestman. “I challenged the group to win every restart (free kick) rather than focusing on the antics we were going to face. I think that kept the team calm, but at the same time it breaks the rhythm and it prevents you from starting.

“They’re a tough team to play against, but I think you can expect that from an Argentinian team.”

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For those familiar with Argentine football, the way they approached the game against the reigning Olympic champions came as no surprise. It also wasn’t a shock that Argentina didn’t finish with 11 players on the pitch.

Canada have faced a number of tough challenges, which could be a preview of what to expect at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as the tournament moves from 24 to 32 teams.

The bigger pitch is expected to widen the gap between the established powerhouses of women’s football and the developing ones, paving the way for physical and defensive struggles.

Argentina, who also qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, kept most of their players behind the ball and rarely ventured much beyond their own half. Although it was an exhibition game, Argentina also didn’t hesitate to crush their opponents when the opportunities presented themselves.

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“I was frustrated, probably like most people watching, in the first half,” Priestman said. “I thought we were slow to get going, which I knew we would, considering we only had one real training session.”

Canada was looking to put in another solid showing, building on a pair of wins over Australia in Brisbane and Sydney in September.

It took a while for Canada to find their rhythm, spending the majority of the first half pulling out of the grass after a number of late challenges, which the Spanish referee seemed unwilling to quell, keeping the yellow card in his pocket.

Canada’s chances of scoring in the first half were limited to a pair of close-range chances for Adriana Leon, who squandered them both.

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Leon, 29, who moved from West Ham to Manchester United this season and scored all three goals in both wins over Australia, was in the crosshairs of the Argentina defenders all game and took the brunt of the punishment .

The Mississauga, Ont., player should have given Canada a lead 10 minutes into the game when she found herself at the end of a low cross from Nichelle Prince on the left wing. Leon, uncharacteristically, however, failed to connect cleanly with his left foot and popped the ball and hit his arm before it rolled into the net.

Later in the half, Leon had a similar opportunity from an identical cross from Prince, but fired the ball directly at Argentina keeper Vanina Correa, who saved it in self-defense.

In the second half, recklessness finally caught up with Argentina as centre-back Marina Delgado picked up two bookings in five minutes and was sent off. Delgado was first booked for a cynical challenge against Jessie Fleming along the sideline in front of the Canadian bench.

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Just five minutes later, Delgado got tangled up with Leon and ended up cutting the Canadian striker’s throat karate. The second yellow card earned Delgado an early shower and gave Canada a playing advantage for the final 33 minutes of the game.

With more room to operate, Canada started to create chances and finally broke through in the 68th minute. Midfielder Quinn replaced Evelyne Viens with a pass through the heart of the Argentine midfield. Viens then combined with Simisola Awujo to get behind the Argentine defence.

Viens found herself in a race for a through ball with Correa in the penalty area, and he eventually ricocheted off defender Aldana Cometti and into the net to give Canada the lead.

Cloe Lacasse then made it 2-0 with her first international goal in the 87th minute. Lacasse, took a rebound in front after Viens returned a low cross from Clarissa Larisey, which Correa was able to save at the near post.

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“As everyone knows Argentina are really scrappy, they look for those fouls and try to put you in your head a bit,” Lacasse said. “In the first half we had a lot of chances, unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage of them. But when we arrived, in the second half, we had to face Argentina who were a bit behind and we were able to end those opportunities, capitalize and get the win.

Canada will remain in Spain to face Morocco on Monday, in the second of the two-game international window.

Priestman and her team will then closely watch the 2023 Women’s World Cup draw in Auckland, New Zealand on October 22 to see who will face Canada in the group stage.

“At the end of the day, I’m happy because of the finishers (substitutes) that came in,” Priestman said. “We got an assist from Clarissa, we got an assist from Simi, then Evelyne and Cloe scored. We also had good chances in the first half.

“Overall you see how it speaks to the depth of the team, and it’s great that these players are now gaining experience for the future.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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