Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Olympic soccer: Canada-Argentina live blog

Well, here we go with the first event of the Olympics: women's soccer. I'll be following the Canada-Argentina match on TV and posting frequent updates here, with some notes from the Brazil-Germany game as well if I can get streaming video to work.

Pre-kickoff: Canadian forward Amber Allen is out of the tournament with a leg injury []. Tough luck for Allen, a Chilliwack, B.C. native who plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps: she missed the 2003 Women's World Cup after tearing her ACL [Vicki Hall, Canwest News Service via the National Post], and a broken tibia in the same leg kept her out of the 2007 Women's World Cup. After intensive rehab earlier this year, it looked like she might finally get a shot, but it was not to be. She'll be replaced by 19-year-old phenom Jodi-Ann Robinson, a fellow Whitecap from Richmond, B.C. Robinson is very talented and has already earned 30 caps with the senior national team: she should do very well here.

Great quote from defender Randee Hermus in a pre-game profile: "Winning tackles, scoring goals and shattering the dreams of my opponents is why I do this."

First half

0:00: Here's the lineups. Canada is playing a 3-4-3 with Erin McLeod in goal, Emily Zurrer, Candace Chapman and Martina Franko at the back, Claire Rustad, Sophie Schmidt, Rhian Wilkinson and Diana Matheson in the midfield and Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi and Kara Lang up front. Karina LeBlanc, Robinson, Robin Gayle, Hermus, Amy Walsh, Jonelle Filigno and Brittany Timko are on the bench.
Argentina opts for a 3-5-2 with Vanina Correa in net, Eva Gonzalez, Marisa Gerez and Gabriela Chavez at the back, Florencia Mandrile, Mariela Coronel, Fabiana Vallejos, Maria Quinones and Maria Blanco in midfield and Maria Potassa and Mercedes Pereyra up front. Their subs are Guadalupe Calello, Yesica Arrien, Ludmila Manicler, Emilia Mendieta, Daiana Cardone, Andrea Ojeda and Analia Almeida.

5: Not too many chances so far: mostly a midfield battle.

9: Argentina gets the first corner kick of the game and sends a good ball in, intercepted well by McLeod though.

14: Christine Sinclair and Kara Lang combine to create a corner kick for Canada, but Wilkinson's ball in is cleared by Argentina.

16: Lang is hacked down just outside the box, Wilkinson takes the free kick for Canada and finds Martina Franko open at the back post, but her header glances off Tancredi and over the net. It doesn't matter, as Tancredi is called for an offensive foul.

19: Lang again creates a great chance down the right flank and whips a cross in for Tancredi. Argentine keeper Correa gets a weak punch on it, but enough to divert it away from Tancredi, who is soon felled in the box in a collision with an Argentine defender. No call is made. Tancredi appears to have rolled her ankle and is stretchered off.

22: Tancredi has recovered and is back on.

24: Reasonably even so far in terms of possession, but Canada's created the better chances. You have to feel it's only a matter of time before that strike force of Sinclair, Lang and Tancredi tallies a goal. I like manager Even Pellerud's strategy of going for goals with the aggressive 3-4-3 instead of sitting back: the three strikers are all among Canada's top players, so let them all play.

25: Schmidt makes a nice run down the right flank and crosses over everyone's head. Eva Gonzales, Argentina's left back, doesn't seem to be able to handle the pressure Canada's creating down the right.

26: Some great midfield passing sets up Christine Sinclair for a long strike from 25 yards, which is barely parried by Correa and punched wide. Corner to Canada.

27: GOAL! Candace Chapman collects the ball after the corner and lets a powerful low drive fly from 30 yards out, through everyone and into the net. A great job of screening by Tancredi in front: she blocked Correa's vision beautifully and jumped over the ball at the last moment. Sean Avery couldn't have done it better.

28: Well, Canada deserved that goal on the basis of the chances they created so far: it's interesting that it came from a midfielder instead of one of those fearsome strikers, though.

29: Argentina gets a shot off on McLeod, but it's from distance and poses little threat. Easily handled.

30: Lang again makes Gonzales look foolish with a great stepover/pullback move, but her cross is intercepted by Correa.

31: Sinclair is set up in the box, but doesn't have much of an angle, and her shot goes right to Correa.

33: Tancredi and Gonzales collide, and Gonzales gets the worst of it. She not only limps off, but also concedes a free kick to Canada.

34: A great free-kick from Canada's Matheson, flicked on from Franko to Lang, who slid in to finish in style, but it won't count due to an offside. Lang just got a little too eager and jumped too soon. She might have been onside if Franko hadn't touched the ball, as I think she was fine at the time of the free kick, but there was no question about the final call.

36: Another ball in from Chapman almost finds Sinclair, but is barely punched clear by Correa. Correa's doing a strong job of goalkeeping for Argentina: this score could easily be higher.

38: Pereyra makes a run into the Canadian box, but gets little support and is quickly closed down by a horde of defenders who steal the ball and clear it.

39: CBC commentator (and former men's national team captain) Jason DeVos makes a great point about how well Canada is running off the ball. The Canadian players are making a tremendous effort to defend as a team and create multiple passing options on offense, and it's working well so far. Looks like the smog and humidity hasn't gotten to them yet.

40: Five minutes to go to the half, and the balance of play has really swung in Canada's favour. They're controlling the midfield, creating great offensive chances and preventing Argentina from maintaining possession. However, the only indicator that really matters is the scoreboard, and that still reads 1-0.

41: Tancredi seems to still be having trouble from the various collisions she's been in: it looks like it might be a back problem. She's taken off and replaced by Robinson, who wasn't even on the team a week ago. Robinson's been very effective on the national stage thus far, and she is tremendously experienced for her 19 years: this could be her time to shine. Canada's greatest depth is probably up front, as they've got an embarrasment of riches at striker.

45: Maria Potassa goes for goal from 25 yards out, and just misses the top corner. That was dangerously close, but McLeod might have got it if it was on target: she was in the right position.

45: Two minutes of stoppage time added: CBC announcer Nigel Reed thinks it should be more.

45: Reed reminds us that Canada led 1-0 at halftime in the teams' last meeting, in Korea at the Peace Queen Cup back in June, and wound up winning 5-0. Argentina shouldn't be taken too lightly, though: they may be ranked 27th in the world (Canada is ninth), and they disappointed at last year's Women's World Cup, but they are still the current South American champions after beating rivals Brazil in the Sudamericano Femenino final back in 2006.

A great Olympic debut for the Canadian women. They certainly have plenty of international experience, but unlike the men's World Cup, the Women's World Cup doesn't have the same kind of crazy atmosphere around it that the Olympics do. So far, the Canadian athletes have been up to the challenge.

Other halftime scores: Germany 0, Brazil 0 and Japan 0, New Zealand 1.

Nigel Reed just mixed up Candace Chapman and Randee Hermus on the highlights, announcing that Hermus had scored Canada's goal. That's a little tricky to do from the bench. Don't know where he got that one from: the two look nothing like each other and Hermus wasn't even playing. They do play the same position, though. Fortunately, he quickly realized and corrected his mistake.

Second half

45: No halftime substitutions for either side.

50: A slow start to the second half so far. Argentina created a bit of pressure, but nothing too serious.

52: Argentina's Potassa creates a good run and gets open for a cross, but takes Candace Chapman down along the way and is called for an offensive foul. That could have been dangerous if the call wasn't made.

54: Lang sets up Robinson, who almost finds Sinclair with a through ball into the box, but puts it a bit too far.

57: Substitution for Argentina. Striker Maria Potassa comes off and Ludmila Manicler replaces her.

58: Robinson sends in a great cross, but no one can get on the end of it. The ball is cleared, but only as far as Schmidt, who chips it in beautifully for Sinclair. Sinclair slides and almost notches Canada's second goal, but the ball bounces wide of the net off her knee.

59: Schmidt makes another good play at the opposite end of the pitch, thwarting a Argentine counterattack.

60: Robinson creates a counterattack of her own, showcasing her tremendous speed. She also has crazy ball-control skills: she falls outside the area, but holds the ball between her legs, flips it over her head, gets up and then promptly runs around the shocked defender. And you thought those hours playing Hackey Sack would never help in soccer! It's for naught, though: she sets up Wilkinson in the box, but Wilkinson fires over the net from 12 yards out. That one should have been in: she had plenty of time and space to finish.

63: Robinson puts her speed to good work again against Florencia Mandrile, and is promptly taken down for it with a shove in the back. No call.

64: Lang's continuing her strong play down the right flank. She sends a cross in for Robinson, but it's cleared.

65: DeVos makes the point that much of Canada's success has been due to the team spending a long time together. That's largely due to Vancouver Whitecaps' owner Greg Kerfoot's generosity in establishing a year-round residency program for all of the national players, not just those who play for his club. The Vancouver Province's Ed Willes had a great feature on this program and its importance to the national team yesterday: highly recommended, if you haven't already read it.

67: Canada almost adds a second off a corner, but it's tipped just wide by a sliding Sinclair. The team's looking dangerous off set pieces. They shouldn't get overconfident, though: with a bad break, Argentina could level this despite being outplayed for most of the game. An insurance goal would be awfully handy about now.

70: Updates from the other matches: Germany-Brazil is still scoreless, but is featuring some good attacking football. Those teams will both be serious contenders for gold. New Zealand now leads Japan 2-0.

71: Yellow card to Maria Quinones for a harsh tackle on Lang. 25-yard free kick from Wilkinson at the top right-hand corner of the box.

72: GOAL! Canada notches a second off another set piece. Wilkinson sends a great ball in for Lang, who finishes perfectly with a brilliant header from eight yards out. That's the best way to get revenge for a rough tackle! Truly deserved for Lang, who's had a superb game, and Canada, who really should have had more goals by now.

75: Lang's inspired by that goal: she creates two more chances in quick succession and earns a corner on the second. An offensive foul on Canada negates the corner, though.

77: Robinson is put through and brilliantly chips the keeper, but Argentine midfielder Quinones gets back and clears the ball just off the line. That easily could have been a third.

79: Argentina get their first burst of possession in quite a while, and promptly throw it away with a 40-yard drive that never troubled McLeod and rolls wide of the net. Canada can't relax though: one single bad break could negate their dominance and bring this contest back within a goal.

80: Substitution, Argentina: Emilia Mendieta on, Mercedes Pereyra off.

81: Substitution, Canada: Brittany Timko on, Diana Matheson off. A good move by Pellerud to inject some fresh legs into the midfield and give one of his younger players some Olympic experience.

85: GOAL, Argentina. Uh oh, there's that break I referenced. Wilkinson dribbles with the ball for too long in her own end, and is stripped by Mariela Coronel. Coronel crosses to Manicler, who makes no mistake with the finish. Despite Canada's sizeable edge in play to this point, any result can still happen. Five minutes to go.

87: Wilkinson tries to redeem herself with a strong shot from outside, but it's easily handled by Correa.

88: Defender Martina Franko makes a great run forward, beats the offside trap and is in all alone six yards from goal, but hits the crossbar with a volley. Clare Rustad fires the long rebound wide. Another one that could have been a goal for Canada: it won't mean anything if they win, but they'll have to wonder about these squandered chances if Argentina can earn a tie.

90: Two minutes of stoppage time to be added.

91: Argentina make a final substitution, sending on defender Yesica Arrien for the last minute. A curious move, given the limited time left.

92: It's all over: Canada takes the win. Some nervous moments for the Canadians, but they thoroughly deserved the full three points. They outshot Argentina 9-3, and almost all of those shots were excellent scoring chances. They'll have to look at their finishing going forward, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment