Canada fall to world champions Japan in Olympic opener

Tancredi scores in 2-1 Olympic loss in Coventry, England

Canada could not complete a second-half comeback after surrendering two goals in the opening period, and as a result, opened their London 2012 Olympic campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Japan in Coventry, England.

Japan scored twice before Canada got on the board through former Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Melissa Tancredi’s 19th international goal in the 55th minute. Canada played an improved second half, but could not salvage a point.

After Canada contained the defending FIFA Women’s World Cup champions in the early going, Japan eventually broke down the Canadians and opened the scoring with a beautiful goal.

In the 33rd minute, FIFA World Player of the Year Homare Sawa lofted a perfect chip into Shinobu Ohno. Ohno waited on the right side before knocking a tricky back-heel into the path of Nahomi Kawasumi and her tight-angle shot beat the onrushing Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod.

Japan capitalized on some miscommunication in the 44th minute, as McLeod came out to claim a ball, but was unlucky to collide with one of her defenders and Aya Miyama headed the ball in.

In the second half, Yuki Ogimi could have given Japan a third in the 51st minute. Ogimi had a wide open net, but defender Lauren Sesselmann scrambled back to clear the shot off the goal line.

Just four minutes later, defender Rhian Wilkinson led an attack up the right side for Canada. Tancredi timed her run well and held off a Japanese defender and got her right foot to Wilkinson’s cross and steered the ball home with her right foot.

Canada had to play the final five minutes a player short, as Candace Chapman had to be helped off the field with an obvious injury. As they had already used their three allotted substitutes, Canada could not bring on another player.

Including eight former Whitecaps FC players (in bold), Canada had a starting XI of Erin McLeod in goal, with Rhian Wilkinson, Candace Chapman, Carmelina Moscato, and Lauren Sesselmann in defence. Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Diana Matheson, Kaylyn Kyle, Tancredi, and Christine Sinclair made up the midfield through the attack.

In the second half, Canadian head coach John Herdman replaced Sesselmann with Chelsea Stewart (70'), Wilkinson with Robyn Gayle (71’), and Kyle with Kelly Parker (76’).

Japan went with Miho Fukumoto in goal, then Yukari Kinga, Azusa Iwashimizu, Saki Kumagai, and Aya Sameshima in defence. Mizuho Sakaguchi, Aya Miyama, Nahomi Kawasumi, Homare Sawa, Shinobu Ohno, and Yuki Ogimi made up the midfield and attack.

In the second half, Japanese head coach Norio Sasaki replaced Ohno with Kozue Ando (65’).