The Eh Game

Canadian women’s soccer takes down South Africa, but now the hard work begins

Andrew Bucholtz
Eh Game

View photo

.

Canada had lots to celebrate against South Africa, but a tougher match looms.

The Canadian women's Olympic soccer team's 3-0 win over South Africa should be able to dispel some of the concerns raised over their opening loss, but an unexpected result elsewhere in their group will make things tougher for them. The Swedish team managed to hold defending Women's World Cup champions Japan to a 0-0 draw, which leaves both of those teams on four points through two games, while Canada only has three following Saturday's victory. The Canadians will face Sweden in the final match of group action, and to add to the already-difficult challenge of facing the world's fourth-ranked team (Canada is ranked seventh), they'll now need a victory to come through in the preferred slot of second place.

There were signs Saturday that might suggest victory against the Swedes is possible, though. The Canadians overcame many of the criticisms directed against their play in the opening match, and they did a particularly solid job of maintaining possession, turning it into scoring chances and capitalizing on those chances. Christine Sinclair shone as usual, picking up a brace of goals, and her first one was particularly impressive; she delivered a great header that rang off the bar, but followed it up herself and drove the rebound home. This was more than just Sinclair, though; Melissa Tancredi's seventh-minute strike set the tone for the match, the Canadian midfield did an excellent job of controlling the ball and setting up attacking opportunities, and the defence limited opposing chances. Of course, it's easier to look good when you're going up against 61st-ranked South Africa, but there were still enough solid moments for the Canadians to feel pretty good about their performance here.

[Slideshow: Candid shots of Canadian athletes in London]

The match against Sweden Tuesday (9:30 a.m. Eastern) will pose a challenging task, however. For one thing, the Swedes may not have been as recently dominant as Japan, but they're a strong team in their own right; that's reflected both in the world rankings and in Saturday's draw between those sides. For another, Sweden has a lot of incentive to play for a draw; presuming that Japan thumps South Africa, a draw against Canada would lock up second place for the Swedes, and that second-place slot might just provide the easiest path to the final. The Swedish team is very solid defensively, as they showed against Japan, and if they keep everyone behind the ball, they could make life very difficult for Canada. The Canadians have to go on the attack in this match; while it's still possible to advance as one of the best third-place teams, that would set up a much tougher quarterfinal matchup, and one that could potentially be against the top-ranked Americans. By far the best scenario for Canada is if they can pull off a win against Sweden Tuesday; that won't be easy, but it's certainly possible.

More London Olympics content on Yahoo! Canada Sports:
Mary Spencer gets a break
Photos: Day one of Canada at the Olympics
Video: Despatie says he's lucky to be in London
Canada's women's eight rows strongly into Olympic final

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.
    • Ex-Sabres enforcer Peters suspended after youth brawl

      Ex-Sabres enforcer Peters suspended after youth brawl

      Andrew Peters of the Buffalo Sabres watches as they play against the Chicago Blackhawks on December 15, 2007 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. Former Buffalo Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters has been suspended from coaching the Jr. Sabres after his … More »

      Puck Daddy - 4 minutes 38 seconds ago
    • Sonny Gray not eligible for WBC after being denied insurance coverage

      Sonny Gray not eligible for WBC after being denied insurance coverage

      Oakland A’s ace Sonny Gray has been forced to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic after being denied insurance coverage for the event. Gray was on the DL for more than 60 days last year and he didn’t play in more than 10 innings after coming … More »

      Big League Stew - 20 minutes ago
    • Hockey Oscars: Best actor, actress and picture in puck movies

      Hockey Oscars: Best actor, actress and picture in puck movies

      The Academy Awards are Sunday, and once again despite having nine Best Picture nominees there isn’t a single sports film among them. EDDIE THE EAGLE WAS ROBBED! The last one nominated for Best Picture was “Moneyball,” and that was a movie about … More »

      Puck Daddy - 57 minutes ago
    • Daniel Bard's comeback bid is gaining momentum

      Daniel Bard's comeback bid is gaining momentum

      Daniel Bard is hoping to pitch his way back to prominence. For a time, Daniel Bard was one of baseball’s most effective and feared relievers. Now the 31-year-old right-hander is scratching and clawing for one more opportunity in the big leagues, … More »

      Big League Stew - 1 hour 8 minutes ago
    • Erik Karlsson gets terrified by alligator on golf course (Video)

      Erik Karlsson gets terrified by alligator on golf course (Video)

      The Ottawa Senators visit the Florida Panthers on Sunday, which meant that the players had a chance for a little rest and relaxation in the Sunshine State. Given their fortunes during his career, you’d figure Erik Karlsson has had his fill of golf. … More »

      Puck Daddy - 2 hours 23 minutes ago