Highlight-reel goal by Adriana Leon lifts Canada women past Brazil in soccer friendly

SANTOS, Brazil — Having coached the U.S. to two Olympic gold medals and a silver at the World Cup, Pia Sundhage knows her football.

And Sundhage, now in charge of the Brazil women, was quick to praise Canada after her side was beaten 2-1 Friday.

"Remember Canada is the gold medallist in the Olympics and they're getting better and better," said the 62-year-old Swede, whose U.S. team beat Canada 4-3 after extra time in an epic semifinal at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Canadians took their revenge on Sundhage at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 when the Canadians beat Brazil 4-3 in a penalty shootout after the quarterfinal game finished knotted at 0-0.

Canada prevailed again Friday thanks to Adriana Leon's highlight-reel goal, extending the Canadian women's win streak to five games. While Canada endured some tough patches against the skilled Brazilians, it bent but didn't break.

"I think we have to learn from some of the mistakes today. But we also have to put to bed the really good chances that we had," said Canada coach Bev Priestman.

"I thought it was a very good football match for anybody who was watching," she added.

The two sides meet again Tuesday in Sao Paulo.

"They look electric in transition," Priestman said of the Brazilians. "We knew that. We prepared for that. But I think what I expect is another very good game in Game 2."

The seventh-ranked Canadians have now won nine of their last 10 and are 11-2-3 in 2022 with the losses coming to the top-ranked Americans (1-0 in July in the final of the CONCACAF W Championship) and No. 6 Spain (1-0 in February at the Arnold Clark Cup).

Ninth-ranked Brazil had won 10 in a row, outscoring its opposition 34-1, with six of those victories coming in a Copa America championship run in July. Brazil had not lost since a 3-1 decision to Sweden on June 28.

"I'm not happy with the result but there were spells in the game where we did quite well," said Sundhage.

Shelina Zadorsky also scored for Canada at Estadio Urbano Caldeira, also known as Vila Belmiro — home to Santos FC and, at one time, Pele.

Debinha replied for Brazil, which trailed 2-1 at the break but came out with purpose to start the second half. Priestman sent on some experience from her bench to steady the ship.

Canada's first two goals came off well-drilled set pieces.

Zadorsky rose high to head home an Ashley Lawrence cross in the 22nd minute on a corner, after a Christine Sinclair header was pushed off the crossbar by Brazilian 'keeper Lorena.

It was a fourth goal in 86 appearances for Canada for the Tottenham defender.

"(I'm) really pleased. I think you can see she's confident. She's playing a lot of minutes at Tottenham and you can feel and see that on the pitch," said Priestman.

Leon made it 2-0 with a gorgeous volley off a Jessie Fleming corner in the 29th minute. Sinclair headed the ball on and Leon swung her left foot, hammering home a low shot for her 28th goal for Canada — and her fifth in her last seven games.

"Dri only scores some unbelievable goals," Priestman said of the Manchester United forward. "She's got that and that's why she's in the team. And that's why she's scoring — because she has that technical ability under pressure to just pull the trigger and do it well.

"That confidence is going to help us next year. When you've got people consistently scoring, it really adds to the confidence of the team."

Brazil answered in the 33rd minute with a beauty of a goal from Debinha. After a Canadian turnover, Brazil drove towards the Canadian goal and Kerolin chipped the ball past Bianca St-Georges into Debinha's path. The Brazil star forward used her torso, perhaps with a little shoulder, to chest the ball ahead and then poked it past goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.

Canada, which downed Brazil 2-1 in the bronze-medal game at the 2016 Rio Olympics, improved to 9-9-9 against Brazil since they first met in 1996.

As in recent international windows, Priestman was missing players.

Janine Beckie (Portland), Vanessa Gilles (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Deanne Rose (Reading, England), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash) and collegiate players Simi Awujo and Zoe Burns (USC), Jade Rose (Harvard) and Jayde Riviere (University of Michigan) are all unavailable.

Sinclair, Lawrence and Gabrielle Carle, missing in the October window that saw wins over No. 29 Morocco (4-0) and No. 76 Argentina (2-0), were back in the fold for the Brazil games. Canada won a pair of friendlies in September in Australia (1-0 and 2-1).

Sheridan started in goal behind Lawrence, Kadeisha Buchanan, Zadorsky and St-Georges. Fleming and Julia Grosso were a deep-lying midfield duo behind Nichelle Prince, Sinclair and Leon with Evelyne Viens up front.

The Canadian starting 11 had 1,028 caps between them including 318 for the 39-year-old Sinclair.

Jordyn Huitema and Carle came on for Canada to start the second half. Desiree Scott, Cloe Lacasse and Sophie Schmidt followed later in the half.

Amanda Allen, a 17-year-old, won her first senior cap off the bench, coming on in the 71st minute.

Sheridan needed treatment in the 72nd minute after a Brazilian stepped on her forearm as the two went after the ball.

Huitema went down in the penalty box in the 82nd minute after tangling with Brazil's Fernanda, but there was no call.

The 41st-ranked Canadian men were in action earlier in the day, rallying to tie No. 85 Bahrain 2-2 in a World Cup warm-up in Manama. Canada was missing some of its top talent, with European clubs still in action.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2022.

The Canadian Press