Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Canada wins group phase after 0:0 draw with Brazil

Canada played to a 0:0 draw in women's international soccer on Wednesday 15 December 2010 against the world's number-three ranked Brazil. With the draw, Canada finished first place in its group with seven points and a +6 goal differential at the Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo. Canada finished first ahead of host Brazil who also collected seven points in three matches, but with only a +4 goal differential.

"I think we played our game," said coach Carolina Morace. "We wanted to get a result and our players did very, very well. They were aggressive and they didn't lose their position in a new formation."

With Canada already qualified for the final, coach Morace use a young squad and a new formation that "we just told them yesterday what they would have to do." The Canadian players responded magnificently and shut down the sometimes tricky Brazilian squad for 90 full minutes.

Canada and Brazil will meet again in four days on 19 December in the championship final (17.00 local / 14.00 ET / 11.00 PT).

Canada's goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé was the star of the game, but she had the help of the entire team including experienced defenders Emily Zurrer and Robyn Gayle.
"It was not just me, it was the whole team," said Labbé. "We just stayed composed and focus for the whole game. Any little mental lapse against Brazil and you can get beat one-on-one."

Making her third career start (second in the tournament), Labbé was sharp from the get go. One of her big saves came in the 21st minute when she collected the ball after it deflected off the post. Brazil could have easily scored on the play, but Canada's Diamond Simpson had rushed back and tipped the ball before it hit the Canadian post.

In the 28th minute, Labbé made a good save on Marta, one of several on the night.

Labbé remained strong in the second half while Brazil maintained pressure and created more chances. In the 68th minute, a sudden yet powerful shot from distance by substitute Gabriela was tipped over the crossbar by Labbé.

About 10 minutes later, a sneaky pass from the right by star Marta was stopped by Zurrer and Labbé. Zurrer was right on top of the Brazilian forward for whom the pass was intended.

"All game long, Brazil did well knocking low balls into the box," said Labbé. "We didn't let them finished."

At the other end, one of Canada's best chances came in the 85th minute on a free kick following a pair of cautions to Brazil. The direct shot by Canadian substitute Carmelina Moscato, however, was stopped. In the last five minutes, neither side could break the deadlock and the match ultimately finished in a 0:0 draw.

Morace started three teenagers as well as two 20-year old players in this match. Her starting XI featured Stephanie Labbé in goal, Brittany Timko, Emily Zurrer, Robyn Gayle and Shannon Woeller (20) at defence, and Laura Chénard (19), Christina Julien, Amélia Pietrangelo (17), Chelsea Stewart (20), Brooke McCalla and Diamond Simpson (17) from midfield through to the attack. Morace's three substitutions were Carmelina Moscato and Marie-Eve Nault at the half (for Timko and McCalla) and Diana Matheson in the 78th minute (for Julien).

As for Brazil, its starting XI featured Andreia in goal, Aline, Renata Costa, Erika and Rosana at defence, and Fabiana, Ester, Thais, Danielle, Francielle and Marta from the midfield up through to the attack. Brazil's three substitutions were Grazielle in the 16th minute (for injured Danielle), Gabriela in the 66th minute, and Marina in the 76th minute.

Canada, whose title sponsor is Winners and presenting sponsor is Teck, is undefeated in nine straight matches dating back to the 30 September home victory against China PR at BMO Field (eight wins and one draw). Its 2010 record is 13 wins, two draws and two losses.

Of note in this match, Pietrangelo, Simpson and Woeller all made their first-ever starts at the international "A" level. Six players from today's Canadian lineup still have less than five international appearances to their record: Pietrangelo and Simpson with two each, Chénard with three, Labbé and Woeller with four, and McCalla with five.

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