Canada huffed and puffed, and finally blew the house down. Substitute Sarah Stratigakis saved Canada’s blushes by scoring deep into injury time, as the Reds eked out a 1-0 win over Argentina at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup on Sunday at Exploria Stadium in Orlando. Canada is eighth in the current FIFA world rankings, 23 spots ahead of Argentina, so this was a match the Canadians should have won, and were expected to win. Despite carrying the bulk of play, the Reds struggled to find a way through the ultra-defensive South Americans, let down by a lack of finishing in front of goal and poor set-piece execution. In only her third senior team appearance, Stratigakis came to the rescue in the 92nd minute and handed Canada its first win under coach Bev Priestman, stabbing home from in-close after Argentina couldn’t clear away a dangerous free kick played into its box. Canada was coming off a tough 1-0 loss to the United States in its first game of the SheBelieves Cup, while Argentina dropped a 4-1 decision to Brazil in its opener. In just her second game in charge, Priestman made six changes to her starting 11 on Sunday, including handing midfielder Jordyn Listro and defender Jade Rose their first caps. Midfielder Quinn and goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan (injuries) and defender Vanessa Gilles (back with her pro club) were unavailable after starting against the United States. Midfielder Samantha Chang also earned her first cap when she entered the game as a second-half substitute. Stephanie Labbé started in goal in place of Sheridan, but was never seriously tested. Sophie Schmidt (201st cap) wore the captain's armband for just the second time in her career, while fellow midfielder Desiree Scott was on the bench. The Canadians stormed out of the gate, using a frenetic pressing game to dominate the South Americans and force them to chase shadows. Argentina sat back deep, tough, making it difficult for Priestman’s side to penetrate into the penalty area. When the Canadians did break through, a lack of finishing let them down. The Reds should have scored midway through the half when a botched clearance by Argentina fortuitously fell to the feet of Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming inside the box. But goalkeeper Laurina Oliveros did well to rush back and swat away Fleming’s goal-bound header. Fleming squandered another scoring opportunity later on, pushing her attempt wide of the near post that Oliveros had covered, instead of angling her shot towards the open far post. A fevered pace dictated Canada’s start to the second half, as the South Americans were forced onto the back foot. Argentina had trouble clearing Janine Beckie’s dangerous ball played into the heart of the box before Oliveros pounced on it to deny Nichelle Prince. Oliveros later saved Beckie’s volley attempt from 20 yards out, while Adriana Leon ballooned her shot from in-close over the crossbar. As Argentina dropped even deeper in defence, Canada advanced forward in desperate search of a goal as the second half wore on. But the South Americans’ bend-but-don’t-break defence held firm, and thwarted the Canadians at every turn. The game appeared to be headed towards a draw when Stratigakis scored her first goal for Canada in dramatic fashion, poking her shot home amidst a goal-mouth scramble.
BOX SCOREGoals 90’+2’ – Sarah Stragakis (Canada) Discipline 7’ – Yellow: Shelina Zadorsky (Canada) 66’ – Yellow: Agustina Barroso (Argentina)
- Canada has won all five of its matches against Argentina, dating back to their first meeting at the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup staged in the United States.
- Canadian defender Vanessa Gilles, who put in a player-of-the-match performance against the U.S., has left the SheBelieves Cup and returned to FC Girondins de Bordeaux as part of a pre-tournament agreement between Canada Soccer and the French club.
- Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan is back with her pro club Sky Blue FC, where she will be further examined. Sheridan suffered a non-contact injury in Canada’s game vs. the U.S. and had to be replaced by Stephanie Labbé after 10 minutes.
- Canada plays Brazil (tied with Canada at No. 8 in the world rankings) on Feb. 24 to conclude the group stage. The team with the most points at the end of the round-robin wins the tournament. The first tiebreaker is overall goal difference, followed by total goals scored, and then head-to-head results. The U.S. sits in first place with six points after two games, ahead of Brazil and Canada (three points each) and Argentina (no points).
- The U.S. beat Brazil 2-0 in Sunday’s other game at the SheBelieves Cup. Like Canada, Brazil and the U.S. have qualified for the 2021 Olympics, and are using this competition to prepare for Tokyo.