Janine Beckie's 2 goals carry Canada past Chile for 1st Olympic soccer win
Crucial victory all but guarantees Canadians a berth in quarter-finals
Janine Beckie's two goals gave Canada the boost it needed to earn its first Olympic soccer win in Tokyo, 2-1 over Chile on Saturday.
The victory all but guarantees the Canadian women a quarter-final berth coming off a 1-1- draw against highly ranked Japan in their tournament opener.
They face Britain on Tuesday at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium to close out Group E action. Britain beat No. 37 Chile 2-0 in their opener.
Chile came out aggressive early in Saturday's match, delivering a corner kick within the first minute. But the Canadians took over possession and produced several scoring opportunities.
- The first was a close call in the seventh minute as Kadeisha Buchanan took a pass from Beckie in the box. After Chilean goalkeeper Christiane Endler made the save, the ball ricocheted off Buchanan's arm and crossed the goalline. But following a review the goal was called off.
- Ten minutes later, Christine Sinclair went up for the ball against two Chile defenders in the box but was stepped on by Daniela Pardo, causing her to go down. Following a review, Canada was awarded a penalty kick. With Beckie taking the opportunity to score, she hit the goal post and missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring.
"It's frustrating to miss a penalty to be able to put the team up early on in the game, would have been ideal, but it happens. You can't score if you don't shoot, so I stepped up to take it and I'll continue to step up and take them," Beckie said.
"My job for this team is to score goals. And you know, Nichelle Prince is incredible at putting the ball on a play for me, Ashley Lawrence, Christine [Sinclair], I have players around me that create scoring opportunities for me. So, to be able to reward the team with two goals is great. We came here to win. And so, to be able to help by scoring two goals makes me happy."
In the 39th minute, Beckie got an opportunity to redeem herself, as a cross from Prince was knocked away by Endler, and the Canadian took full advantage for a 1-0 lead.
WATCH | Canada's Janine Beckie puts home opening goal against Chile:
Coming out of halftime, it was Beckie who struck again, capitalizing from an Ashley Lawrence through ball, getting past Endler in a one-on-one situation and scoring with ease to put Canada up 2-0.
Beckie now has five Olympic goals. She scored three at the 2016 Rio Games, where Canada won bronze for the second consecutive Games.
Canadian coach Bev Priestman had expected a tough challenge from the Chileans, who were making their Olympic debut.
"I think it's exactly what I expected the game to be. I've always said that this game was never an easy game," she said. "We made it difficult for ourselves at times. But at the end of the day, we could have had four goals … so I'm overall happy we came here to get three points. That's exactly what we did."
WATCH | Beckie doubles down with another goal minutes into 2nd half:
In the 49th minute, Beckie had another opportunity to complete the hat trick but was unsuccessful.
The missed chance gave Chile life as a Shelina Zadorsky penalty in the box allowed for Karen Araya to score on a penalty kick to cut Canada's lead to 2-1 in the 57th minute.
Chile had a chance to tie it in the 72nd minute when a shot from in close banged off the crossbar.
Priestman praised the play of Julia Grosso and Jayde Riviere, who made their Olympic debuts on Saturday, Grosso in the midfield and Riviere on the back line.
Their contribution was further evidence of Canada's depth, which Priestman and her team will need in the Olympic tournament, particularly when they leave the comfortable indoor Sapporo Dome.
"I will be calling on the depth I think, for players to go three nights is a big ask. And we're going to go back to the heat now, out of the lovely air-conditioned dome that we're currently in," she said.
Kailen Sheridan started in net in place of Stephanie Labbe, who suffered a rib joint injury during her heroic performance against Japan. Labbe was injured challenging an attacker inside the penalty area. She was down for several minutes but stayed in the game to stop a Japanese penalty shot. The 24-year-old Sheridan replaced her in the 58th minute.
The Canadian team has 12 members of the teams that won bronze under former coach John Herdman in the previous two Olympics.
Eight teams will advance from the 12-country round robin to the knockout stage. The final is set for Aug. 6 at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.
With files from The Canadian Press