Four years of waiting finally comes to end in Edmonton on Saturday as the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ gets underway. It will be a double celebration for the host nation who have the chance to see their team in action for the Opening Match against China PR, while New Zealand tackle debutants Netherlands in the second contest of the day.
Match of the day
Canada-China PR, Edmonton, 6 June, 16.00 local time
Canada will finally have a chance to put a long and thorough preparation into practice in front of what is expected to be a large and colourful crowd in the 50,000 capacity venue. Not only will be Canada seeking to make a strong opening statement, they will be looking to cast aside memories of four years ago when they fell to a brave 2-1 defeat against host nation Germany. The pair met twice in January with Canada prevailing by a single goal on both occasions and it would be a surprise if this was a similar contest of fine margins. While Canada are stealing all the headlines, the match also marks the welcome return of 1999 finalists China PR, who unexpectedly missed the Women’s World Cup for the first time four years ago.
The other match
New Zealand-Netherlands, Edmonton, 6 June, 19.00 local time
The Netherlands will be looking to cast aside opening stage-fright on what is their long-awaited debut in the Women’s World Cup. With New Zealand yet to win any of their nine previous World Cup outings, the match is set to mark a milestone moment whichever way it goes. New Zealand have been steadily building in recent years and they come to Canada 2015 armed with the necessary experience and know-how to make an impact following three previous unsuccessful campaigns. Equally the Netherlands are also not short on international experience – five players boast over 100 caps - despite their status as Women’s World Cup newbies. The Oranje Leeuwinnen would dearly love an early goal to settle any jangling nerves and there will be much interest in the attacking partnership forged between proven goalscorer Manon Melis and prolific teenage striker Vivianne Miedema.
Player to watch
Local hopes will fall largely on the shoulders of inspirational striker and captain Christine Sinclair. Boasting a barely believable tally of over 150 goals in a glittering 15-year career, Sinclair is undoubtedly a genuine world class talent for the home side. Still only 31, and showing little sign of ageing, Sinclair has a proven record on the big stage including a sensational goal in the Opening Match against hosts Germany four years ago.
3 – The host nation has won three of the four times they have played in the Opening Match. The head-to-head record stands at three home victories (China PR in 1991, USA in 1999 and Germany in 2011) and one defeat (Sweden in 1995).
“Pressure is there every day, but we are high performers and that is what we get out of bed for. We don’t want these women who have given so much to this sport and to this country to walk away with a bad taste in their mouth like they did in 2011. This is it. It’s all or nothing.” John Herdman, Canada coach
Canada-China PR (Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, 16.00)
New Zealand-Netherlands (Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, 19.00)
All times local