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Sinclair farewell tour begins with Canada win vs. second-string Matildas

Tooba Shakir 5 months ago 0


The Christine Sinclair farewell tour got off to an excellent start on Friday, with Canada defeating a second-string Australia side 5-0.

A first-half Nichelle Prince brace was followed by three goals in 13 minutes — from Cloe Lacasse, Simi Awujo on debut, and Adriana Leon — in wet and wild conditions in Langford as soccer’s all-time leading international goal-scorer Sinclair (190 goals in 330 games) came on in the second half to play in her penultimate national team game.

Meeting for the first time since the Matildas ended Canada’s World Cup campaign in Melbourne with a 4-0 victory, the two coaches took very different approaches to this match. Canada boss Bev Priestman called on six players who took to the field in Melbourne, sprinkling in less-experienced players as well, while her Australia counterpart, Tony Gustavsson, opted for a much less-experienced side; not a single member of the starting XI took part in their World Cup meeting.

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Pregame, the Swede said the match was his final chance for experimentation and testing less-established players. With only four international windows before the Olympic Games in Paris, and the task of actually qualifying for the games still to be completed with a two-legged playoff against Uzbekistan in February, Gustavsson decided this was the last real opportunity to tinker and learn about players outside of his core group.

The gulf in experience between this line-up and Australia’s first-choice XI was made abundantly clear by the number of caps each team had. The starting XI against Canada featured 429 appearances and two debutantes in Charlize Rule and Sarah Hunter. A month ago, against the Philippines in an Olympic qualifier, Gustavsson fielded 880 caps’ worth of experience — five players with more than 100 appearances to their name — in an 8-0 victory.

The gulf in experience between this line-up and their Canadian opponents was just as apparent with the reigning Olympic gold medalists looking a class above for most of the match. The torrential rain and artificial pitch made a tough day out for the Matildas even more difficult, with the conditions exacerbating some errors and forcing others.

It was a particularly tough night out for Australia’s forwards, with the likes of Remy Siemsen and Alex Chidiac often isolated up top, while Canada’s press led to three of the five goals as the Matildas’ midfield and backline conceded a deluge of chances in a deluge of rain.

It was reminiscent of the two-game series Australia played against the United States in 2021, and the games against Spain and Portugal in 2022, when highly ranked opposition played a less-experienced Matildas side and big scorelines arose.

There has been plenty of debate as to the value of throwing young players into the fire without more established teammates around them, while managing the minutes of those established players as many of the Europe-based Matildas work through matches in multiple competitions for their club sides.

The eventual introduction of more familiar faces stopped the rot, with neither side scoring in the final 25 minutes and Australia notching their first shots for the game in that period.

For Canada, the win will be a small consolation after the World Cup result, but a positive showing of attacking prowess after a 2-0 win and 1-0 loss against Brazil in the previous international window.

Most importantly, it was a positive result for Sinclair as she prepares to retire after the second game between the sides on Dec 6. There was applause for the 40-year-old striker in the 12th minute, in honour of her jersey number, and plenty more in the 64th when she came on for her 330th appearance for the national team.

The Canada captain was also honoured before the game, with her nieces presenting her with a jersey, and an official decree that Dec. 12 would be “Christine Sinclair Day” in her native British Columbia in honour of her No. 12 jersey.

The sides will meet again at the renamed “Christine Sinclair Place” on Wednesday in what will be undoubtedly an emotional celebration of one of the greatest footballers to play.

The Matildas will hope they can spoil the party, while Sinclair will hope for one last goal to add to a tally that may never be matched.


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