Canada's Olympic soccer team takes opener over Argentina
1st of 6 women's games on Wednesday
The Canadian women's soccer team won its debut Wednesday at the 2008 Beijing Games, defeating Argentina 2-1 in Group E action at Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium.
Defender Candace Chapman, of Ajax, Ont., gave Canada its first goal in the 27th minute, while Oakville, Ont., native Kara Lang added the winner with a great header off a free kick in the 72nd minute.
Ludmila Manicler scored the lone goal for Argentina in the 85th minute.
"The team was very pumped up and ready to play, but it was mixed with emotions," Canada's head coach Even Pellerud told the Canadian Soccer Association's official website. "The team settled down after the first goal and then we dominated clearly. Overall, we would have preferred a higher-skilled game, but Argentina preferred to keep the tempo down."
"They were tough conditions: the heat was 35 degrees and there was high humidity," said Pellerud. "We should have determined the final result much earlier, but our finishing was not great."
The win also came at a price for the Canadian team. Forward Melissa Tancredi, who scored four goals in April's Olympic qualifying tournament, left the field on a stretcher in the 19th minute after she appeared to suffer a leg injury in a collision with Argentine defender Gabriela Chavez.
She returned to the field less than three minutes later, but was eventually forced to leave in the 42nd minute.
Soccer is the only sport starting play before the Olympic opening ceremonies on Friday. The top two teams in each of the three Olympic groups advance to the quarter-finals, with the next two best teams squeezing into contention.
Sinclair misses early opportunity
Canada slowly built some early pressure which led to some early scoring chances.
Tancredi narrowly missed a goal off a corner kick by sending a header over the bar in the 16th minute.
Christine Sinclair, who leads Canada with 93 goals in international competition, unleashed a shot on target in the 26th minute, but it was tipped out of bounds by goalkeeper Vanina Correa.
Chapman put Canada on the board a minute later as she joined play in the Argentine zone and hit a potent, low volley from more than 30 yards out that sailed through a crowd and skipped just inside the left post.
"When we started, we had a lot of nerves," Chapman said. "The goal was big for us. It's always frustrating when you're pressuring the ball and it doesn't go into the net."
Lang appeared to score Canada's second goal in the 33rd minute with a sliding shot in the penalty box, but she was ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.
After halftime, Sinclair nearly struck again in the 59th minute as she slipped behind the Argentine defenders and deflected a ball off her shin to the left of Correa and out of bounds.
It wasn't until the 72nd minute that Lang helped cushion the Canadian lead. Rhian Wilkinson's free kick from just outside the box found the head of Lang, who redirected it to the left of Correa from 10 yards out for a 2-0 Canadian advantage.
Canada almost pads lead
Jodi-Ann Robinson nearly put Canada up 3-0 in the 77th minute after she deflected a pass from Sinclair past Correa, but the slow-rolling ball was cleared by Maria Quinones just before it crossed the line.
Argentina briefly swung momentum the other way after Canada failed to clear the ball from its own end in the 85th minute.
A perfect pass went to the foot of Manicler in the box, and she buried a high shot past Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod for Argentina's only goal.
Canada now faces host team China on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:45 a.m. ET).
On the men's side, there are eight matches on Thursday. The Canadian men's national team won't be at Beijing because the team failed to qualify.
Brazil, Germany tie to open Group F
In other women's play Wednesday, gold-medal contenders Brazil and Germany played to a scoreless draw in the Group F round-robin opener.
Brazil's Marta, the FIFA player of the year, was effectively contained by the Germans, but they failed to capitalize on their chances.
Germany's best opportunity came in the 23rd minute when Sandra Smisek hit the crossbar with a header. For Brazil, Renata Costa's header hit the post in the 63rd minute.
It was the first match between the teams since last year's World Cup final, when Germany came out on top for its second consecutive world title.
Neither country's women's team, however, has won an Olympic gold medal.
Germany finished with bronze in Sydney and Athens, while Brazil earned silver in Athens.
Japan rallies for draw with New Zealand
In the opening match of Group G play, Japan needed a pair of second-half goals to salvage a 2-2 draw with New Zealand.
Midfielder Kirsty Yallop scored New Zealand's first goal ever at the Olympics as she tapped in a cross in the 33rd minute, while forward Amber Hearn doubled the New Zealand lead after converting a penalty just after halftime.
But Aya Miyama converted a penalty kick of her own in the 72nd minute to pull Japan to within one before she found Homare Sawa for a brilliant goal in the 86th minute.
Sawa jumped up and knocked Miyama's curling free kick with her right foot just inside the near post to level the score.
With files from the Canadian Press