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Canada prove defence doesn’t always win you games

Having reverted to a staunchly defensive style since Kenneth Heiner-Møller took over from the departing John Herdman, Canada were left to pay for a lack of Plan B.

For the North Americans, it was a whimper rather than a bang, that they went out with in Paris. Coming into the tournament with just one goal conceded in their last nine and a healthy run of friendlies against European opposition, Canada were left short-handed at the Parc des Princes.

Against a Sweden team who failed to spark into life in attack, the two spent the majority of the match cancelling each other out. Sweden’s best period – in which they scored – followed by Canada’s as they frantically looked for a goal to keep them in the tournament. Having faced each other at the Algarve Cup earlier this year – a match decided on penalty kicks after a scoreless 90 minutes – most expected a low scoring affair. And a low scoring affair they got.

The goal was one of the few moments of quality, although the defending raised more than one question, and when Canada got their chance from 12-yards their previous meeting played on the mind of captain, Christine Sinclair. The only player to have seen a penalty saved by Hedvig Lindahl in the shoot-out to decided the third place at the friendly tournament, the experienced attacker turned to Janine Beckie, asking her to strike the spot kick. A goalkeeper who had done her research, Lindahl went early, knowing which side of the goal Beckie would despatch her penalty into. Her save the turning point in the match.

It was frantic from Canada in the last knockings, but ultimately the Swedish defence held firm in a way the Canadian one did not. Yet there was no suggestion that the team chasing an equaliser were ranked fifth in the world, there was little oomph or sparkle. No possessing the best team in the world on paper, there was yet more the group of 23 could have done, other avenues Heiner-Møller could have explored.

With Olympic qualifying next up for Canada, it’s for the team to decide if they want to trial a more attacking set-up, but a major change of image under Heiner-Møller seems unlikely right now.

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