2015 FIFA Women's World Cup™ hosts Canada opened their preparation for June's global showpiece in fine fashion, clinching the Four-Nation Women's Tournament title with three straight victories in Shenzhen, China. John Herdman's side opened with a 2-1 triumph over Korea Republic, before sweeping past Mexico by an identical scoreline. Another 2-1 defeat of hosts China PR in the closing game saw the Canadians maintain the unblemished record as they got their hands on the trophy for the first time.
"It's just nice to win something," a satisfied Herdman told the media following the last match. "I think Canada has been at this tournament five times and tried before to win it and this is the first time we've done it. So it's nice to win things and get that winning feeling across the team."
The victory against the Chinese came as a timely morale-booster for the Canadians ahead of their match-up against the Steel Roses in the FIFA Women's World Cup opener on 6 June. All the more impressive was the fashion in which the Canucks played. Canada went a goal behind against first Korea Republic, and then against China but on both occasions they rallied to complete comeback wins.
"That's as strong a performance as I've seen these players put in over a 60-minute period," said the 39-year-old Englishman. "It bodes well, I'm really happy. It showed some real resilience in coming back."
Korea Republic finished runners-up with victories against China and Mexico, while the latter two were level on just a point following the two sides' goalless draw in the opener. With all four teams preparing for the global extravaganza, the international tournament provided the coaches with a precious chance to take stock of their respective sides.
Finding the balance
Having taken Canada to an Olympic bronze medal at London 2012, Herdman is expected to break fresh ground with his team in the Women's World Cup as hosts. To the coach’s pleasure, this four-nation campaign, in a sense, saw his side find a perfect balance in the make-up with young legs complementing old heads. While Christine Sinclair remains the team's lucky charm - the 31-year-old Canada skipper scored three times, including completing a brace against the Chinese as she finished the tournament top-scorer - a host of hopefuls excelled throughout as Canada reigned supremacy.
Twenty-year-old forward Janine Beckie cancelled out Yue Mingji's opener against Korea Republic before teenager defender Kadeisha Buchanan netted the match-winner. Young striker Adriana Leon was also on target against Mexico and boosted by the youngsters' displays, Herdman ventured to field three U-20 players in the decider against China, with 16-year-old U-17 national team skipper Jessie Fleming the most notable.
Canada have returned home with bolstered confidence and the same can be said of Korea Republic, who came from two goals down to edge past China 3-2 before dispatching Mexico 2-1. Yoon Deokyeo's outfits showcased their progress against the home side, with Yoo Younga pulling one back before the break. Chelsea FC striker Ji Soyun drew level with a spot-kick after the restart before midfielder Jeon Gaeul completed the spirited comeback triumph.
The competition cemented Ji's place as one of the promising stars in the women's game. The 23-year-old left her mark in the FIFA Women's U-20 World Cup Germany 2010, finishing tournament joint top-scorer alongside Alexandra Popp with six goals apiece as Korea Republic finished third place. The on-song striker, who earned the 2013 AFC Women's Player of the Year award, will shoulder her side's goal-scoring tasks against Brazil, Spain, Costa Rica at Canada 2015.
With just two goals and a point garnished across three outings, Mexico manager Leonardo Cuellar was left with plenty of food for thought after collecting the wooden spoon. Also reflecting on their campaign was the hosts coach Hao Wei, who maintained his optimism despite the below-par performances.
"We are still going through transition," he said. "We made quite a few changes (against Canada) in the back-line and some errors made by the players looked were avoidable. But we still have the confidence of winning against them in the Women's World Cup opener in June."