Final Score: Canada 2-0 Argentina Goalscorers: Santana (OG) 68', Lacasse 87' International Friendly
Match RecapCanada picked up a victory in their first of two international friendlies in this October international window, taking advantage of a much sharper second half performance to defeat Argentina 2-0. Adriana Leon, who has been in great form for Canada of late, put the ball in the back of the net ten minutes in, but it would be called off. The ball appeared to strike her hand as she tried to control it in the Argentinian penalty area, and as she was poking it into the net, the referee's whistle was blown. Argentina came close a few minutes later, as a corner was header toward goal from a corner kick and had Kailen Sheridan beat, but it went just over the bar. It was a scrappy, physical match at times. Argentina aren't a side that will shy away from such a battle, and were relentless with their pressing and persistent challenges. The referee was letting the players play for the most part, but Canada were left visibly frustrated at times whenever one of their players was shoved off the ball. Leon in particular was routinely targeted, and was knocked to the deck on a few occasions as Argentina clearly viewed her as a major threat. She had a second chance to score as well after her earlier mistake with a shot from the middle of the penalty area, but fired it right at Vanina Correa, who was able to turn it away. Canada looked frustrated toward the end of the first half as they were struggling to create scoring opportunities with their opponents sitting in a very defensive low block, and it would be scoreless after 45 minutes. The match opened up a little more for Canada after the break, after Argentinian defender Marina Delgado was given her marching orders for a couple of poor yellow cards. Moments after the half began, Delgado dragged Jessie Fleming into touch with too much force for the referee's (or Canadian bench's) liking, and he produced a yellow card. A few minutes later Delgado was shown a second yellow for striking Leon in the throat with her forearm. Cloe Lacasse was among the player brought on after the break, and nearly scored with her first touch of the game. Running onto a cross from the right flank to the back post, Lacasse attempted a diving header but was unable to hit the target, sending it just wide. Canada finally took the lead in the 68th minute, on an own goal from Vanesa Santana. Quinn, who had also come off the bench, played the ball forward to fellow substitute Evelyne Viens, who then laid it off for Simi Awujo -- also a substitute moments earlier. The young Canadian midfielder slid the ball through to a charging Viens, who got a touch on it. The ball struck the Argentinian goalkeeper before coming back off one of her defenders, and bouncing into the net. Viens claimed it, and did well to force it, but the body of Santana got the final touch. Canada's lead was doubled in the 87th minute, as Cloe Lacasse scored her long-awaited first goal for the national team. A prolific goalscorer at the club level, Lacasse has been given quite a few opportunities to make an impact for Priestman's team, but despite her great work rate and chances, was yet to score a goal. After Viens' initial shot from Clarissa Larisey's low, driven cross was stopped by Correa, it fell to Lacasse for an easy tap in, and the Benfica striker made no mistake. Lacasse played in a fantastic cross to Evelyne Viens moments after scoring her goal, finding her teammate in the box before Viens redirected it into the bottom corner of the net with a perfect header, but the call was called back for an offside. That would be all Canada had time for, as two minutes of stoppage time came and went, before the referee blew the final whistle to end Canada's third victory in a row, and their seventh in their last eight matches.
Canada victorious as World Cup preparation continuesWith just a handful of opportunities remaining to get the squad together ahead of next summer's World Cup, it's important that Bev Priestman's Canada side are using every opportunity to evolve and build as a team. They don't want to peak to soon, and they certainly haven't, but growth is the most important thing. The Olympic gold medal last year is in the rear view mirror, with Priestman saying in the past that they have a new mountain to climb and a new, even bigger, mountain to climb. In Australia last month, a pair of victories against a top opponent were a massive step in the right direction. Canada debuted a new 4-2-3-1 formation with Jessie Fleming and Julia Grosso sitting behind Christine Sinclair in a midfield triangle with Jordyn Huitema up top. Sinclair wasn't available for this match, so it was Janine Beckie starting the match at number ten, before Fleming was pushed forward after the break. As we'll get to more in a moment, Canada were left frustrated by Argentina's defensive block, but as any good team with high aspirations needs to be able to do -- and as they did several times at Tokyo 2020 -- they found a way to grind out a 2-0 victory. "I was frustrated, like probably most people watching, in the first half," said Priestman when asked if she was happy with the result postgame. "I think we took a while to get going, which I knew we would given we'd only had one real training session going into it. At the end of the day I'm happy." Priestman was particularly happy to see big contributions from those who are fighting for their spots on the World Cup roster. If healthy, some of the players missing from Thursday's groups are a lock to be on the plane to Australia and New Zealand next summer -- Christine Sinclair, Ashley Lawrence and Vanessa Gilles, among others -- so these pre-World Cup camps are absolutely crucial opportunities for other players to stake their claim. "You've got an assist from Clarissa (Larisey), an assist from Simi (Awujo), and then you've got Evelyne and Cloe scoring, and we probably had some really good chances in the first half," she said. "Overall, you look at what it speaks to the depth of this team, and it's great that these players are getting experience now for the future."
Argentina's defensive block and physicality frustrate CanadaArgentina proved to be a frustrating side for Canada to play against, in more ways than one, but that certainly wasn't something that Bev Priestman's team weren't ready for. From the first minute of the game Argentina were pressing hard in defence, routinely putting pressure on the Canadian players in possession. While their forwards did most of the running, the midfielders and defenders sat back in a low block -- a defensive unit that Canada had trouble breaking down. Sometimes a rushed, errant pass would give Argentina an opportunity to counter-attack, although Canada's defensive prowess was also clear, even without Vanessa Gilles, Ashley Lawrence and Jayde Riviere -- who would all be expected to at least be in contention for the starting lineup had they been healthy and available. Canada were forced to try and speed up their buildup, and toward the end of the first half in particular -- frustrated by their lack of regular opportunities to score to that point -- were left trying to play direct passes over the top, looking for any way in. It didn't help, either, that Argentina were playing with a lot of physicality. Any time Canada had the ball in an attacking area of the pitch, especially out wide, a defender came flying in with a reckless challenge. Adriana Leon was knocked over several times in the first half, one in particular quite violently when a defender hip-checked her and sent her up into the air to land awkwardly. Jordyn Huitema was also on the receiving end of some crunching challenges. Within 12 minutes of play resuming after the break, Argentinian centre-back Marina Delgado was given a pair of yellow cards -- one for dragging Jessie Fleming down recklessly, and one for a straight red card-worthy forearm to the face of Leon -- and sent down the tunnel for the remaining 35 minutes of the match. "I think we got exactly the same thing last time we played Argentina, so we were prepared for it," said Priestman after the match, referring to Canada's 1-0 win over Thursday's opponent at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup. "I challenged the group to win every restart, rather than focus on the antics we were going to face. I think that kept the team composed, but at the same time it definitely breaks up rhythm and stops you from getting going. "They're a difficult team to play against, but you can expect that from an Argentinian team." The pitch at Estadio Sanluqueño was also quite short and narrow, which Priestman said forced Canada to try and play through Argentina, rather than use their pace in wide areas to try and go around them. "You want a wider pitch to break down the block, where you've got to go around them rather than through them so much," Priestman said. "I felt at times that was our doing as well, we didn't use the width enough and sometimes were trying to play central passes too much, which obviously is an integral part of the way we play. "I think what they were doing was really condensing that part of the pitch, knowing that, and we needed to go around them more. When it opened up at the end there we did that a lot, lot better." Playing against difficult teams like that, as they've also experienced in CONCACAF matches, will serve Canada well in a potential World Cup matchup, as teams who are inferior on paper may opt for tactics that will grind out results instead of playing exciting, attacking soccer.
Substitutes make a world of difference in second halfCanada's first half was a bit stale all things considered. There were a few moments of quality, and they were defensively solid as always, but in attack they left a lot to be desired at times. With her second half substitutions, Bev Priestman changed all of that. At halftime, Jordyn Huitema and Bianca St-Georges were replaced by Evelyne Viens and Quinn. With Quinn moved into a holding midfield role, Jessie Fleming was pushed higher into the attacking midfield slot that was vacated when Janine Beckie went to right back to replace St-Georges. Priestman didn't stop there, also bringing on Cloe Lacasse for Nichelle Prince and Simi Awujo for Julia Grosso just after the hour mark, and that group of four made an immediate impact. In the 68th minute, Quinn played a through ball to Viens, who laid it off to Awujo before turning and sprinting toward the goal. Awujo played it through with her first touch, and Viens caught up to it just in time to get a touch, that struck the goalkeeper. The ball ricocheted off the goalkeeper, then struck defender Vanesa Santana before finding the back of the net for an own goal, and ultimately the game winner. That shouldn't take anything away from the play by Canada, however, as some good passing and positioning resulted in a goal. Another Canada substitute, Clarissa Larisey -- who replaced Adriana Leon in the 78th minute -- played a huge role in Canada's second, firing a dangerous low cross into the penalty area that Argentina weren't able to deal with. A touch from Viens redirected the ball onto the Argentinian goalkeeper Correa, who made a save but couldn't prevent the rebound from falling to Lacasse, who was there for an easy tap in to score her first Canada goal. The midfield duo of Awujo and Quinn were especially impressive. Neither one play with any fear, and have both proven to be tireless hard workers who are always moving. For Quinn that meant opening themself up for passes by constantly being in position, and for Awujo it was not being afraid to spring forward and trying to make things happen on the ball. Overall, there was a lot to like from Canada's "finishers", the word Bev Priestman likes to use instead of substitutes, in the second half. "You look at Cloe Lacasse, she's a dribbler, and you talk about breaking a block and doing something different -- I thought she would bring that to the game," said Priestman when asked about her substitutions postgame. "I'm over the moon for her to get a goal because she's had many chances for us, and I think you get one and hopefully the floodgates will open. "I think Clarissa had that penetration in behind and her speed, she's electric, and I think you got to see that in moments. With Simi's ability I knew Quinn would get the ball and [they'd] start moving the ball side to side a bit more. "And Evelyne, I must speak to Evelyne. I love it when people go away and work hard, and she's come in the most confident I've seen her, I knew she'd deliver today. We've had one real [training] session, but I could see the difference in her, and I thought she was outstanding tonight. I've got to praise her, it's difficult when you don't get called in, and they go away and work hard and then go deliver."
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchQuinn, Canada After coming off the bench at halftime, Quinn changed the match entirely for Canada, working hard in midfield and playing a crucial role in Canada's first goal.
What’s next?Canada will face Morocco in a friendly match on Monday, at Estadio Municipal de Chapín in Jerez, Spain. That match kicks off at 10:30 am ET/ 7:30 am PT. Watch that match live on OneSoccer.