Inspirational Canada captain Christine Sinclair scored an injury-time penalty to lift the host nation to a tense 1-0 win over China PR as the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ kicked off in front of a record crowd.
Canada dominated large patches of an occasionally scrappy contest though both teams struck the frame of the goal in the first half. While much of the focus was rightly on the home side, the match was also notable for the welcome return of 1999 finalists China, who missed Germany 2011.
A sea of red welcomed the two teams on a perfect late spring's day in Edmonton and Canada cast aside any early nerves by twice coming close. Just three minutes in central defender Kadeisha Buchanan fired off two shots at the back post, with both impressively blocked by goalkeeper Fei Wang.
Canada looked comfortable but an underhit backpass gave Yasha Gu a sniff of a chance only for local goalkeeper Erin McLeod to race out and make a brave block. Within minutes Lisi Wang curled a delicious free-kick that struck McLeod’s near post and, almost unbelievably, the ball then cannoned onto the far post.
It was then Canada’s turn to do likewise with Canada fullback Josee Belanger collecting a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and cracking a sweetly struck onto the crossbar. The theme remained after the break in the afternoon heat with Canada generally on top as China defended in numbers when not in possession.
Just as the match seemed certain to end in stalemate Rong Zhao fouled sub Adriana Leon and Sinclair coolly rolled the penalty home to send the 53,058 audience into delirium.
*Live Your Goals Player of the Match: Sophie Schmidt (Canada) *