Coach Bev Priestman knew a flat performance in a 2-0 loss to the United States in Canada’s opener at the SheBelieves Cup didn’t define her team, whose attention has been divided due to an ongoing labour dispute with Canada Soccer.
On Sunday, the sixth-ranked Canadian women proved her right with a 2-0 win over No. 9-ranked Brazil.
“I’m really proud of the group, for what they’ve come through, to bounce back,” Priestman said after the match. “We said today we had to climb, we had to keep moving forward. And we did that.
“To keep a clean sheet against a hard team to beat, two set-play goals, some young faces on the pitch that I thought did outstanding. So overall, I’m really pleased. And it’s nice to see the group smile. A win helps. And we keep moving forward.”
The labour strife clearly unsettled the Canadian women in their loss to the top-ranked U.S. on Thursday in Orlando, a performance Priestman termed “uncharacteristic.” But the Olympic champions looked far more composed against Brazil from the get-go, launching several early attacks.
Centre back Vanessa Gilles put Canada ahead in the 31st minute with a powerful header off a Jessie Fleming corner. Brazilian defender Lauren fell on the play. It was Gilles’ third goal in 24 appearances for Canada.
Brazil came out with purpose after the break, putting Canada under pressure. But it was substitute Evelyne Viens who added to the Canadian lead in the 71st after Brazil failed to clear a Fleming free kick.
Substitute Christine Sinclair headed Fleming’s delivery into the box and, after a pinball-like sequence involving several players in front of goal, Viens’ shot deflected in off a Brazilian defender for her fourth goal in 16 senior appearances.
Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan made two key saves with 10 minutes remaining to preserve the lead.
“As always it was a very tough game against Canada. A very good team,” said Brazil coach Pia Sundhage, who rued the number of fouls her team committed and the way it defended the ensuing set plays.
“We know what we have to work on,” she added.
The four-team tournament wraps up Wednesday in Frisco, Texas, where Canada — which sits second in the standings above Brazil on goal difference — faces No. 11 Japan and the U.S. meets Brazil.
The U.S. defeated Japan 1-0 in the earlier game Sunday at Geodis Park. Mallory Swanson, who scored both of the American goals in the win over Canada, accounted for the lone goal in the 45th minute.
Brazil edged Japan 1-0 in its Thursday opener.
All four teams are preparing for this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The Canadians, who are playing under protest due to the labour impasse with their governing body, once again took the field for the anthems wearing purple T-shirts saying “Enough is Enough.” The women also wore purple tape on their wrist, as did Priestman, to symbolize gender equality.
In solidarity with Canada, England wore purple wristbands in their 2-1 win over Italy earlier Sunday at the Arnold Clark Cup in Coventry. The Lionesses said on social media the gesture was “to display their support for the Canadian WNT players and for gender equality.”
The Canadian women are demanding the same preparation and backing ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia this summer as the men did before theirs in Qatar. Both the women’s and men’s teams want Canada Soccer to open its books and explain cuts to both programs in 2023 at a time when the sport is soaring back home.
The entire Canadian roster took part in the pre-game on-field photo rather than just the usual starting 11.
Priestman made two changes to her starting 11 with Simi Awujo and Jade Rose coming in for Sinclair and Jordyn Huitema. Fleming took over from Sinclair as captain while Quinn, who goes by one name, did not dress due to illness.
Adriana Leon started up front with the 19-year-old Awujo — earning her fifth cap in her first senior start —- tucked behind her. Ashley Lawrence moved up from fullback to play further forward on the flank with Janine Beckie on the other side.
Beckie earned her 100th cap for Canada. The 28-year-old Portland Thorn is one of the Canadian women’s four team representatives — along with Sinclair, Quinn and Sophie Schmidt — and has been a leading voice in the labour dispute.
Marta, who turned 37 Sunday, came on in the 59th minute to earn cap No. 184. The Brazilian star is on the road back from knee surgery.
Sinclair, earning her 321st cap, and Shelina Zadorsky came on to start the second half in place of Awujo and Gilles. Schmidt followed in the 52nd minute to collect her 219th cap.
Cloe Lacasse, Viens and Huitema entered the game at the hour mark, revamping the Canada attack.
While Priestman acknowledged “by no means was it a complete performance,” she singled out fullback Alyssa Chapman and Lacasse for their performances.
Priestman is without the injured Nichelle Prince, Jayde Riviere, Deanne Rose and Desiree Scott at the tournament.
Brazil hosted a two-game series with Canada in November, with each team registering a 2-1 win. They were the first meetings between the two since Canada edged Brazil 4-3 in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics after the game ended 0-0.
Canada improved its all-time record against Brazil to 12-10-7.
Canada lost 2-0 to Brazil in its only other appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in 2021. The Canadians finished third that year, in Priestman’s debut as coach.
The Canadian Press