Conceding a goal directly from a corner kick against Ireland on Wednesday, Olympic champion Canada was in trouble in its second game of the Women’s World Cup.
After a disappointing 0-0 draw with Nigeria in its opening match of the tournament, and with iconic forward Christine Sinclair on the bench, Canada’s hopes of advancing from the group stage were under threat.
Up against a determined Ireland, an inspired Katie McCabe and torrential rain at Rectangular Stadium, the odds were stacking up against the Canadians.
But with the character of Olympic gold medallists, a touch of fortune and some help from the bench, Canada recovered. Adriana Leon scored the decisive goal early in the second half to complete a come-from-behind 2-1 win that moved her country to the top of Group B and within sight of the round of 16.
That hadn’t looked like being the case when McCabe curled a fourth-minute corner into the back of the net to give Ireland the lead and its first ever goal at a World Cup.
Launching her kick from the right, it was too high for anyone to get a touch and drifted beyond the reach of Canada goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan before dipping under the bar.
It was a stunning strike and a contender for goal of the tournament.
“It’s bittersweet. Of course it’s nice to score and get us off to a good start, but it’s results that matter in this game, at this level and in these type of tournaments,” said McCabe, who was named player of the match and was in tears after the final whistle. “I’m heartbroken for the girls and I felt we deserved something from the game.”
Ireland, in its debut at the World Cup, was eliminated after back-to-back losses. The Irish lost to co-host Australia 1-0 in their opening match.
“To captain these girls is an absolute honour and an absolute privilege. I’m so proud of each and every single one of them, we’ve done so much to get here and it’s about pushing on now,” McCabe said.
Both teams knew a win was vital to their hopes of advancing from the group.
After her team got off to an underwhelming start against Nigeria, Canada coach Beverly Priestman benched Sinclair, international soccer’s all-time leading scorer, for the second game.
In her absence, Canada continued to struggle, going behind early and conceding more chances as Ireland applied the pressure.
Vanessa Gilles wasted a chance to even the score when she sent a shot over from close range as Ireland looked set to go into the break in front.
That was until Megan Connolly’s own-goal in the fifth minute of added time at the end of the first half granted Canada a lifeline. Connolly got the slightest touch on Julia Grosso’s cross to take the ball beyond Ireland keeper Courtney Brosnan.
It was a let off for Canada and Priestman responded by making three halftime substitutions, bringing on Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt and Shelina Zadorsky.
That depth of quality proved the difference, with Schmidt making a quick impact by providing the assist for Leon’s goal in the 53rd.
Canada plays co-host Australia in Melbourne on Monday, while Ireland and Nigeria meet in Brisbane.