Canada gritted out a tense, 1-0 victory over Switzerland Sunday night to advance to the quarterfinals for the second time in team history.
After a tight and sloppy first half, Josee Belanger scored the winning goal in the 52nd minute that shifted the energy of the game in Canada’s favor.
Defender Rhian Wilkinson sent a cross to Sinclair whose touch at the top of the box set up a left-footed finish from Belanger. It was Belanger’s sixth international goal and her first since 2010.
Before the goal, Switzerland had the edge in possession and scoring chances. The Canadians were plagued by their chronic issues this tournament, an anemic attack and poor defense.
Switzerland had a dangerous opportunity in first-half stoppage time when a through ball from Ramona Bachmann onto a slicing run from Lara Dickenmann split the Canadian defense before keeper Erin McLeod came out to make the save.
In the 11th minute, Bachmann was alone in the box with McLeod and, while eventually centerback Kadeisha Buchanan came to McLeod’s aid, McLeod was forced to make a quick save to the near post.
Canada nearly scored 16 minutes in when Josee Belanger’s cross-turned-shot rattled the inside of the far post before bouncing out. Belanger, a forward, had started at right back due to injuries in the defense but was in her natural position in this knockout round game.
The Canadian defense conceded several chances to the Swiss, who in turn wasted the opportunities. Poor decision making, back passes and getting beat in one-on-one scenarios often left Kadeisha Buchanan and McLeod covering for the flaws in the backline. The 52nd minute goal from Belanger increased the Canadians’ energy and confidence and led to more scoring chances.
In the first half, Swiss goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann was hurt during a collision with Melissa Tancredi and received other blows at well and in the second half had issues with coming out for aerial balls in the box. A cross from Tancredi went across the entire box after Thalmann made a failed effort to retrieve it and resulted in Swiss captain Caroline Abbe making a goal-line clearance with her chest.
McLeod made two huge saves for Canada towards the end of the match to ensure a Canadian victory. In the 77th minute, an endline cross from Bachmann resulted in a fumble between several players and after Canadian midfielder Kaylyn Kyle failed to clear it McLeod forced the short-range shot out.
In the 86th minute, McLeod punched a corner kick out of the box towards the left, setting up an opportunity for a Canadian counter and completing her third shutout of the tournament.
Despite advancing to the quarterfinals, Canada will need to improve upon this performance if it is to advance even further.
The Canadian backline was shaky and several mistakes from Lauren Sesselman, who recently came back from an ACL tear, and Allysha Chapman nearly cost the host nation a goal. Buchanan and Sophie Schmidt, two key players for Canada, are also carrying injuries in addition to the team on their shoulders. According to coach John Herdman, Buchanan hadn’t trained in three days and came close to not starting this match. Schmidt is also playing through an injury.
Canada was fortunate to face an opponent who has had similar trouble this World Cup on the attacking side, but will need to play better instead of simply surviving to continue on the road to the final.
Canada will face England on Saturday in Vancouver.
Canada vs Switzerland
June 21, 2015- BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, Canada
Scoring by Period 1 2 F
Canada 0 1 1
Switzerland 0 0 0
CAN: Josee Belanger 52’
CAN: Christine Sinclair (caution) 13’
SUI: Selina Kuster (caution) 46’
CAN: Kadeisha Buchanan (caution) 74’
CAN: Erin McLeod, Kadiesha Buchanan, Rhian Wilkinson (Marie-Eve Nault 88’), Josee Belanger, Desiree Scott, Christine Sinclair, Sophe Schmidt, Melissa Tancredi (Jonelle Filigno 69’), Allysha Chapman, Ashley Lawrence (Kaylyn Kyle 76’)
SUI: Gaelle Thalmann, Rachel Rinast (Rahel Kiwic 80’), Noelle Maritz, Selina Kuster (Vanessa Buerki 61’), Martina Moser (Fabienne Humm 72’), Lia Waelti, Ramona Bachmann, Lara Dickenmann, Ana Maria Cnogorcevic, Caroline Abbe, Vanessa Bernauer