Victory for the Canucks, kitchen sink defending and absolute heartbreak for Catherine Bott sees Canada become the first non-European team to qualify for the Round of 16.
The odds were always stacked against the Silver Ferns coming into this match at the picturesque Stade des Alpes. Not only did they come off second best for the best team nickname (Canucks is just fun to say), legend Christine Sinclair started in attack and was looking to add to her impressive international goal scoring record. Just four goals away from overtaking former USA forward Abby Wambach’s record 184 goals, you could feel that maybe tonight was her night to edge closer.
In the led up to this game I was a neutral, as I loathe to support any team that isn’t my own. Short lived neutrality however as when YASS QWEEN Ann Odong wished the Ferns good luck, I couldn’t help but wish the best for our Chocolate Fish eating, L&P drinking sisters across the ditch. Not publicly on Twitter or anything, but on the inside.
From the outset Canada looked more likely to score, as Janine Beckie (with the good hair) got away a few early chances only to find Erin Nayler and the side netting. Just as Beckie was on the attack again in the 15th, Bott’s wrist stopped the shot and it ends in the most gruesome way.
You feel bad for any player picking up an injury but the footage is sickening as Bott’s wrist bends in a way it definitely shouldn’t. As Bott comes off with a cast and a few tears, I’m pretty sure I saw her swear on camera. She must be in an immense amount of pain, but it looks like she’s more disappointed to be leaving the field than to have a potential (confirmed?) broken wrist.
It’s a terrible blow for both player and team, even more so as The Ferns defend a corner straight away before Annalie Longo can get on the field. An absolute goal-mouth scramble in every sense of the phrase and somehow NZ keep Canada out.
The Ferns appear content to sit back and absorb the pressure from Canada with few chances going forward on the counter. Betsy Hassett has her cross punched away in the 38th before Olivia Chance, WITH A CHANCE, volleys the follow up across goal.
Somehow, we’re goalless at half time despite Canada recording 12 attempts on goal to the Fern’s one.
It all falls apart for the Ferns early in the second half as the Canucks found their hard fought for breakthrough in the 48th. Nichelle Prince chases down a long ball on the left wing, cus into the box and provides for Jessie Fleming. Fleming with all the time in the world coolly slots the ball into the bottom right to hand Canada the advantage they so desperately have been trying to gain.
Sinclair almost makes it 2-0 minutes later, only to sky her shot over the cross bar from within the box. Prince was absolutely on fire in the second half for Canada and seemed to be causing NZ a few headaches. While unlucky to shoot wide in the 58th, Prince had her effort in the 73rd saved thanks to a superhuman stretch from Nayler.
It’s no surprise when Prince find the back of the net in the 78th as she’s in the right place to pick off Sinclair’s rebounded header from the post to make it 2-0. Two goals is enough to hand the Canucks the victory as they join fellow Group E alumni the Oranje in the Round of 16.
While we mourn fallen Kiwi brethren who look likely to exit the competition, I hope Grenoble will prove more successful for our beloved Matildas this Tuesday. Breeidy out.
By Bree Reidy