CANADA VS. ZIMBABWE
Women's Olympic Soccer, Rio 2016 - Group F
Arena Corinthians -- Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sat., August 6, 2016, 2 pm ET
TV: CBC in Canada, NBCOlympics.com in USA
If you’re of the wagering persuasion, a question: You’re feeling pretty confident about Canada beating Zimbabwe in women’s Olympic soccer, right?
Come on. This is Canada, reigning Olympic bronze medalists, ranked No. 10 in the world, who went down to 10 players and still beat Australia 2-0 on Wednesday in their Group F opener.
And this is Zimbabwe: big-tournament newcomers, No. 93 in the world, who lost their Olympic debut -- also on Wednesday -- to Germany by a whopping 6-1 scoreline.
Sure, unpredictable things can always happen. Yes, Zimbabwe have nothing to lose and will fully go for it. Yes, Canada have been known to struggle in games they should handle easily -- but really, this is a fait accompli, n’est-ce pas?
You’re going to take that bet, right?
Might want to read on, first.
Switching it up
Expect to see some new faces in the starting lineup, compared to the opener against Australia. With Shelina Zadorsky suspended due to a red card, Rebecca Quinn will line up at central defense alongside fellow 20-year-old Kadeisha Buchanan.
Up top, there’s a quandary: Go with the squad’s oldest player, 34-year-old Melissa Tancredi, or its youngest, 17-year-old Deanne Rose? Tancredi started against Australia, but there would seem to be no better time to introduce such newbies as Rose and Nichelle Prince than against a weaker opponent.
Give it a go
After a blazing start against Australia, scoring after just 20 seconds, Canada spent most of the first half of their opener scrambling after Zadorsky’s early sending off. But halftime adjustments allowed the team to settle in, repel the pressure and eventually get one on the counterattack.
Head coach John Herdman has persistently preached the need for flexibility in both tactics and personnel -- particularly in short tournaments. Bunkering against Zimbabwe was never going to be the plan anyway, but expect Canada to look decidedly more open than they did earlier in the week.
Keep it in perspective
The main reason you shouldn't already be penciling in three points against Zimbabwe? Canada aren't.
“We won’t be taking anything for granted when we face them,” Herdman said -- and not without reason.
Germany carried a 2-0 lead into halftime on Wednesday, but Zimbabwe struck quickly after the break, narrowing the lead to one goal. The ever-efficient Germans, however, then stepped on the gas pedal and piled on four more goals.
How will this Canadian team react if Zimbabwe scores, particularly if it’s the opening goal of the match? Herdman has emphasized the psychological side of the game in his five years at the helm, and it will be crucial for his team to get neither complacent if things are going well nor frantic if they aren't.