It was a dream start and a dream finish for Canada's women's national team in their Olympic group-stage opener on Wednesday, as the reigning bronze medalists notched a 2-0 win over Australia despite playing much of the match with 10 players.
Janine Beckie scored the quickest goal in Olympic history after just 20 seconds, converting a pass from captain Christine Sinclair, who had capitalized on poor passing in the Australian defense.
But Canada lost a player in the 18th minute when center back Shelina Zadorsky was sent off for denying Australian striker Michelle Heyman an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Elise Kellond-Knight sent the ensuing free kick off the crossbar.
Australia pushed hard to maximize their numerical advantage, but the Canadian defense managed to hold firm—and eventually punished the Matildas on the counterattack. In the 80th minute, Jessie Fleming lofted a long ball to Sinclair, who outfoxed goalkeeper Lydia Williams and sealed Canada's win.
The Canadians' next match-up in Group F is against Zimbabwe on Saturday, before finishing up the group stage against Germany next Tuesday. The top two teams in each of the three groups, plus the top two third-place teams, reach the Olympic quarterfinals.
1’ – CAN – Janine Beckie (Christine Sinclair)
80’ – CAN – Christine Sinclair (Jessie Fleming)
- PASSING THE TORCH: The symbolism was clear on Canada’s opening goal: long-time leader Sinclair laying the ball off for up-and-coming 21-year-old striker Beckie. But the 33-year-old captain also showed she has something left in the tank with her 163rd international goal, which now leaves her 21 shy of Abby Wambach’s all-time record.
- NET WORTH: It was a tale of two halves for Canada goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, making her first Olympic start in the absence of long-time top netminders Erin McLeod [ACL injury] and Karina LeBlanc [retirement]. After some shaky decision-making in the first 45 minutes, the 29-year-old Labbe settled down and maintained the clean sheet. She’ll need to remain calm and confident if Canada are to have a shot at reaching the podium.
- CENTER OF ATTENTION: With Zadorsky suspended due to her red card, Canada will likely start a pair of 20-year-olds (Kadeisha Buchanan and Rebecca Quinn) in central defense in their next game. While Buchanan and Quinn stood tall against Australia, and No. 93-ranked Zimbabwe probably won’t pose the biggest threat, it does give head coach John Herdman another decision to make once Zadorsky returns.
GK Stephanie Labbe
D Ashley Lawrence
D Kadeisha Buchanan
D Shelina Zadorsky (out 18’, red card)
D Rhian Wilkinson (out, HT)
M Diana Matheson (out, 69’)
M Jessie Fleming
M Desiree Scott
F Janine Beckie
F Christine Sinclair
F Melissa Tancredi (out 23’)
GK Sabrina D’Angelo
D Allysha Chapman (in, HT)
D Rebecca Quinn (in, 23’)
D Josee Belanger
M Sophie Schmidt (in, 69’)
F Nichelle Prince
F Deanne Rose