Canada falls to Japan in wild women's friendly
2nd-half sub Sameshima scores in stoppage time
Sophie Schmidt thought she was going to send the Canadian fans home happy on Tuesday night.
The reigning Women's World Cup champions had other ideas.
Second-half substitute Aya Sameshima scored in stoppage time after Schmidt had tied things late as Japan defeated Canada 3-2 in a wild international women's soccer friendly in Vancouver.
"I was pumped. We fought really hard to get back. I thought that we chased them, put a lot of pressure on them," said Schmidt. "Things were going our way, we were pressing them. It's just an unfortunate thing that happened. I think fatigue set in ... and a simple mistake."
Sameshima jumped on ill-advised backpass by Canada's Allysha Chapman that handcuffed teammate Emily Zurrer before moving in alone and beating goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.
The deflating goal came moments after Schmidt brought her team level with her second of the night.
"Bittersweet. Disappointed with what happened at the end there, but can't fault the performance of these Canadian women," said head coach John Herdman. "Every time that we ask them to pull on the red shirt I know what we're going to get. It's 100 per cent and they aim to make their country proud just through their effort to start with."
Canada, which also lost 3-0 to Japan in Edmonton on Saturday, is currently ranked eighth by FIFA as it continues preparations ahead of hosting the Women's World Cup next summer.
"Talk about a roller-coaster," said Canadian captain Christine Sinclair. "Just very proud of our team to play two very good games against one of the best teams in the world. Realistically we should have come away with a tie tonight."
Herdman is trying new tactics and younger players in the buildup to the tournament, including 16-year-old Jessie Fleming in midfield and 18-year-old Kadeisha Buchanan in defence.
"In terms of the performance I can be proud of what they've done," said Herdman. "Eight months out from a World Cup, we're going to be there fighting. You can see that. This team isn't going to be too far away with all the preparation we do."
On this night, however, there were some growing pains.
Yuki Ogimi, like Sameshima a sub in the second half, gave No. 3 Japan a 2-1 lead in the 76th minute after pouncing on a Buchanan error and lobbing a shot up and over a helpless Labbe to break a 1-1 tie.
"We walk away discouraged that we lost," said Schmidt. "It's a little bit disheartening because you want to win in Canada in front of your fans, give them something to be excited about. But there's a lot of good things we walk away with."
Down 1-0 in the second half, Canada tied things in the 58th minute when Schmidt rifled a shot off a corner kick that Japanese goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto completely whiffed on moments after Fleming was denied in front of goal.
The effort cancelled out a stunning volley from Asana Nagasato after another corner that gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute. Schmidt could only clear the ball as far as Nagasato at the edge of the penalty area, and she pounded a shot off the crossbar and in past Labbe.
The game was played on the turf at B.C. Place Stadium, which will host the final of next summer's Women's World Cup. Herdman made five changes from Saturday's lineup, including Labbe getting a start ahead of Erin McLeod.
Japanese head coach Norio Sasaki — whose team is also the Olympic silver medallists — made nine changes to his starting 11, including all three goal scorers from Saturday.
Outside of Sinclair, finding goals has been a consistent problem for Canada and a lot of early chances went begging against the Japanese. Fleming moved in on a 2-on-1 break in the seventh minute, but decided on an aerial pass that failed to connect when a better option might have been to put a shot on target.
Sinclair then had an effort blocked in 16th minute and another headed chance in the 26th. Fleming tried her luck again in the 28th minute, but her shot was thwarted and Adriana Leon missed on the follow up.
"The first 15 minutes we should have been two up. We had two great chances," said Herdman. "I thought we started the game brighter than we did the other day. We got caught in their quality in the first 10 minutes in Edmonton. That really set the tone for the game. I thought we started brightly."
Leon then missed another grade-A chance from 10 yards out at the end of the half after taking a pass from Sinclair.
Canada returned to B.C. Place for the first time since a 2-1 defeat to No. 2 Germany in June that saw the visitors waste a number of opportunities in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the scoreline suggested.
"We've definitely progressed," said Sinclair. "We're now expecting results against these teams, which is exciting."