Canada picked up their first point at the Four Nations Tournament after a goalless draw with hosts China in Guangzhou.
Head coach Even Pellerud included to two 17-year-olds in his starting XI, with Jonelle Filigno and Vancouver Whitecaps youngster Julie Armstrong both starting up front alongside captain Christine Sinclair - who was making her 105th international appearance - in a 4-4-3 formation. It was the pair’s first-ever start and their second cap at senior international level.
Armstrong and Filigno were two of five teenagers that Pellerud played in Friday’s contest, as the Canadians looked to recover from a tournament-opening 4-0 defeat to arch-rivals USA on Wednesday. Whitecaps midfielder Sophie Schmidt also made a start, while the Vancouver pair of Kaylyn Kyle and Jodi-Ann Robinson came on as substitutes against the Chinese.
Maple Ridge, BC, native Karina LeBlanc replaced Whitecaps goalkeeper Erin McLeod in goal on Friday. LeBlanc last played for Canada in a 0-0 draw with Japan on August 30, as injury kept her out of last September’s FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in China.
“Our team performed at its highest level in quite some time,” a delighted Pellerud told CanadaSoccer.com. “With teenagers Jonelle Filigno and Julie Armstrong as starters - as well as midfielder Clare Rustad, who recently returned to the team - we managed to control a very accurate passing team. Both teams played with tactical purpose, so it was a battle from start to finish. China had the edge in the first half and we had the edge in the second half. While our backline struggled against the United States, they put together a wonderful performance today, with Candace Chapman and Martina Franko closing down all the dangerous space. Our performance will give this team more confidence. We hope to build on this, as we move to the third game against Finland on Sunday.”
In Wednesday’s other game, Lindsay Tarpley scored two more goals, as the USA defeated Finland 4-1 to go two points clear at the top of four Nations tournament standings. Lauren Cheney and Angela Woznuk also scored for the Americans, while Essi Sainio replied for the Finns.
Canada has one point after two games at the Four Nations Tournament and will face Finland in their final game on Sunday before returning back to Vancouver to continue their preparations for next April’s CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico.