It was by no means easy, but Canada did enough on Sunday to get past Switzerland and book their spot in the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals.
Canada beat Switzerland 1-0 in front of an ecstatic crowd of 53,855 at BC Place in Vancouver, with Josée Belanger’s 52nd-minute strike standing up as the winner.
Belanger, a natural striker, was starting as a forward for the first time in the tournament, after playing Canada’s three group-stage games at right back due to an injury to Rhian Wilkinson. But on Sunday, Wilkinson was fit to start—and she was the one who got the scoring play started, whipping a cross into the penalty area that was controlled by Christine Sinclair and ultimately finished with Belanger’s left foot.
It was a first World Cup goal for 29-year-old Belanger, who was a standout performer in Canada’s 2011 Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign, but missed the tournament with an ankle injury. She was then absent from the team for three years, before being brought back into the fold by head coach John Herdman in 2014.
She nearly opened her scoring account in the first half against Switzerland, sending a cross/shot off the post in the 16th minute. It was the hosts’ best scoring chance of a nervy first half in which Switzerland bent but didn’t break the Canadian defense.
The Canadian team had a spark lit by Belanger’s goal and continued pressing forward, but the Swiss nearly found an equalizer late in the second half. A stellar diving save from goalkeeper Erin McLeod kept Swiss midfielder Vanessa Bernauer off the board in the 77th minute.
Huge save by Erin McLeod. pic.twitter.com/SBxEj54Pej— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 22, 2015
A few minutes later, Canadian substitute Jonelle Filigno nearly doubled the hosts’ advantage, but couldn’t connect with a Sinclair cross.
Canada will now await the winner of Monday’s Round of 16 clash between Norway and England to determine their opponent in the quarter-finals on Saturday, back at B.C. Place.