Canadians open Games with victory over Argentina - The Province

Vicki Hall
Canwest News Service

TIANJIN, China - Christine Sinclair warned Canadians against expecting anything resembling sensational soccer in the opening minutes of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The sensational striker's prediction proved true Wednesday, as the Canadian women's soccer team pulled off a 2-1 victory over Argentina before a crowd of 23,201 at the Tianjin Olympic Centre Stadium.

Canada, which is ranked ninth in the world, could barely complete a pass early on against the 29th ranked Argentines.

The nerves were obvious as the Canadian women played their first ever game on the world's biggest stage.

But finally, the bigger, stronger Canadians calmed down and, in the 27th minute, defender Candace Chapman nailed a shot from 35 yards out through a maze of legs.

Argentina goalkeeper Vanina Correa dove to her left and got a piece of the ball, but it dribbled in the right corner of the net to give Canada a 1-0 lead.

Despite an impressive display of spunk, Argentina simply wore down as the game went on in the sticky 30 C heat.

Canada kept pressing and finally got a break when Kara Lang deflected a header into the net in the 72nd minute off a shot from Rhian Wilkinson to put the Canadians up 2-0.

Refusing to quit, Argentina's Ludmila Manicler rocketed a shot right inside the penalty area over a helpless Erin McLeod in the game's 86th minute to narrow Canada's lead to 2-1.

The Canadians, however, refused to sit back. Just two minutes later, Martina Franko nailed a shot off the post, but the lead was more than safe as clock ticked down.

Canada, which is grouped with Sweden (ranked No. 3), China (No. 14) and Argentina, secures three key points in the quest to advance out of the qualifying round. The top two teams in each group, along with the top two third-place teams, advance to the quarter-finals.

Canada plays China on Saturday in Tianjin and Sweden on Tuesday in Beijing.

vhallthejournal@canwest.com

© Canwest News Service 2008