Canada scored only one goal (a consolation tally in their first game) at the World Cup last year, and their offense hadn’t shown too many signs of being respectable, yet alone explosive since John Herdman took over the helm from Carolina Morace last year. So the key at the Olympics was clearly scoring goals, their defense should be able to keep people in check if they could only find someone to help out Christine Sinclair.
There are still many questions to be answered about the Canadians, but after a spirited 2-2 comeback against Sweden, one thing you can say for certain. It’s better than where they were last summer.
1) The slightest formation switch can make a big difference
As many people, including Canadian Ciara McCormack, have pointed out at the Olympics, it was a little bit surprising to see Christine Sinclair coming back so far to get the ball, although she was effective with her distribution. So Herdman – even with a plethora of injuries – decided to say screw it, and go to a 4-3-3 by taking out Kaylyn Kyle and putting in Jonelle Filigno. It was Melissa Tancredi that got the goals, but Sinclair now had another option when dropping back (and Diane Matheson and Sophie Schmidt continued to get forward, too), and Herdman seems to have an instant offensive juggernaut on his hands. Who knew? And although this game ended tied, Canada dominated in just about every sense of the word, including the stat sheet.
2) Canada’ s defense still may not be able to hold up, though
Both Swedish goals were ugly, and they came within two minutes of each other. They held Sweden off the rest of the game, but they weren’t under too much pressure. The back four for Herdman in this one was with Lauren Sesselmann and Carmelina Moscato in the middle and Rhian Wilkinson and Marie-Eve Nault on either side of her. Again, Erin McLeod had a goalkeeping error that cost them a goal. With a huge possession advantage, Canada’s best defense was to be more attacking in this game, but without that much of the ball in the quarterfinals against Great Britain, will the strategy work?
3) Sweden might be in trouble. Or they might not.
The biggest change Thomas Dennerby made was to insert Kosovare Asllani in for Johanna Almgren, and while that was part of the problem, Sweden looked vulnerable in just about every area. When the ball went in the vicinity of Lotta Schelin, she looked dangerous, but those times were few and far between. Tough call for Dennerby, both outside wingers (Sofia Jakobsson and Marie Hammarstrom) scored, but may not have given him enough tracking back to help a back four and goalkeeper, who never looked comfortable and were under all kinds of pressure. Does Caroline Seger push forward or stay back? And even a less-than-stellar France may not give them much of a chance to figure it out.
Melissa Tancredi = Golden Boot?
You could have gotten pretty good odds on that one about a week ago, but it’s worth remembering that Homare Sawa pulled it off at the World Cup with just five goals. So if she gets one against Great Britain, might she be able to hold on if they lose? We’ll see.