Take a deep breathe, Canadian soccer fans. It appears as though Christine Sinclair is okay. Sinclair was back in action for her country for the first time in over a year in Canada’s 3-0 victory over Wales in Friday’s international friendly at Leckwith Stadium in Cardiff. But the iconic Canadian captain crashed to the ground in a great deal of pain in the first half after making a sliding challenge on a Welsh player. The injury appeared to be to the left ankle of Sinclair, who had her hands on her face before getting up and limping off the pitch and being subbed out. After the game, Canadian coach Bev Priestman told reporters "it seems pretty positive" for Sinclair, and that she wasn't overly concerned about her star forward's injury status. Priestman also said she is hopeful that Sinclair will be available to play for Canada against England next week. That's good news for the Canadians, especially with the Tokyo Olympics just three and a half months away. Canada won back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics with Sinclair leading the way. Deanne Rose, Évelyne Viens and Jessie Fleming scored for Canada against Wales. Stephanie Labbé earned her 37th career clean sheet, but she was never seriously tested by the Welsh attack. Sinclair was back in the starting 11 for Canada after sitting out the SheBelieves Cup tournament in Florida in February due to injury. Her previous outing for the national team came on March 10, 2020 in a 2-2 draw against Brazil at the Tournoi de France. Also back in Canada’s lineup were fullback Ashley Lawrence and forward Jordyn Huitema -- they weren’t released by their pro club (Paris Saint-Germain) for the SheBelieves Cup. Priestman gave rare starts to defenders Vanessa Gilles (just her fourth cap) and Gabrielle Carle, and Rose. Despite the injury to Sinclair there were positives for Canada, most notably the play in midfield of Quinn (they set up the opening goal with a brilliant pass). Also, after Canada scored just once in three games at the SheBelieves Cup, it badly needed a performance like this one where the attack was working on all fronts. Canada put Wales under pressure right from the opening kickoff with wave after wave of attack, as midfielder Fleming pulled the creative strings in midfield. With little possession, the hosts had to rely on the counter-attack to hit out against Canada. A Welsh giveaway in the middle of the park led to Canada’s first quality scoring chance in the 20th minute, with Sinclair unleashing a powerful shot from distance that forced a fine save by goalkeeper Laura O'Sullivan. The breakthrough came five minutes later. Quinn played a superb through ball from inside her half for Rose, and the young attacker beat O'Sullivan with a great finish in the upper-right corner from inside the box. The joy was short-lived for Canada when Sinclair went down injured. She was subbed out after 33 minutes and was replaced by Viens. Wales finished the first half strong, having a bit more joy in going forward in attack, and started the second half on the front foot. But a lovely finish by Viens at the near post capped off a sweeping attacking move by Canada in the 58th minute. Substitute Janine Beckie played a great ball into the box for Viens who netted her first goal in four appearances for Canada. Fleming made it 3-0 with a highlight-reel goal just four minutes later, bending a terrific shot from the edge of the box into the top corner while being hounded by a pair of Welsh defenders. Canada is eighth in the current FIFA world rankings, tied with Brazil. Wales is 31st. Canada’s next game is on April 13 vs. England (No. 6 in the world) in Stoke-on-Trent.
BOX SCOREGoals 25’ – Deanne Rose (Canada) 58’ – Évelyne Viens (Canada) 62’ – Jessie Fleming (Canada) Discipline None
- The following Canadian players are unavailable for this pair of friendlies due to medical reasons: defenders Kadeisha Buchanan and Bianca St-Georges, midfielder Diana Matheson, forward Adriana Leon, and goalkeepers Kailen Sheridan and Sabrina D’Angelo. Priestman expects all of these injured players to be available for the Olympics.
- The only previous encounter between Canada and Wales came in a 2002 clash at the Algarve Cup in Portugal. On that occasion, Canada won 4-0, with a pair of goals coming from a then-teenaged Christine Sinclair. Her second goal of the game, the 23rd of her career, came off a bad clearance by the Welsh defence. Kara Lang also scored a brace for Canada, while goalkeeper Erin McLeod earned her first international cap and her first shutout with the senior side.
- Friday marked Gemma Grainger’s first match in charge of Wales. Grainger, a 38-year-old from England, was hired earlier this month after previous coach Jayne Ludlow stepped down in January. Grainger was a member of England’s coaching staff at Euro 2017, where the team reached the semifinals. Priestman worked with Grainger during their time together in the England national team program.