OTTAWA – It has been over 29 months since the Canadian women’s national team played their last game on home soil.
OTTAWA – It has been over 29 months since the Canadian women’s national team last played a game on home soil. The Olympic champions celebrated their long-awaited return victoriously on a Saturday and started their Celebration Tour in style with a 5-1 win over New Zealand on TD Place.
The friendly was the first for the sixth-placed Canadian women since defeating Sweden in the final of the Tokyo Games on August 6.
“I think even before the game started it was very special for all the fans who came, they made it an unforgettable evening for the group,” said Canada’s head coach Bev Priestman. “I think that spurred the group on and they did something special. I think that set the tone for the game.
“Scoring five goals against a top 25 team was important and a step forward for us towards the World Cup.”
Jessie Fleming opened the goal with a penalty in the 12th minute and Christine Sinclair scored in the 41st minute to make it 2-0. Nichelle Prince and Adriana Leon rounded off the Canadian rating with a couple.
“It’s great to be home again and some of us joked that we couldn’t remember the last time we played at home,” said Sinclair. “To be able to celebrate this gold medal with the fans is of course a special moment and something to celebrate and to see the little kids in the stands, that is something special.”
Prince scored in the 58th minute. New Zealander Ria Percival scored in the 71st minute with a penalty before Leon counted in the 75th and again in the 82nd minute.
It was the national team’s first game on home soil since May 18, 2019, when Canada defeated Mexico 3-0 in a warm-up game ahead of this year’s World Cup in France at BMO Field in Toronto.
The team played 29 straight games outside Canada before returning to face the 23rd Football Ferns.
The tour is designed to honor the squad for their gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last summer. The teams will play again in Montreal on Tuesday.
Canada and New Zealand met in the last two World Cup tournaments. The first meeting in Edmonton in 2015 was a 0-0 draw. Four years later Canada won 2-0 in Grenoble.
The 2023 World Cup will be hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand. Canada won their last duel against New Zealand, a 3-0 decision at a tournament in China in November 2019.
“I think we can actually take a lot of positive things out of this game,” said New Zealand defender Ali Riley. âI know the result is of course disappointing, the spells of possession, some of the combinations.
“I don’t know if we’ve seen this on TV many times, especially now against one of the best teams in the world, the Olympic champion.”
Just before kick-off, Canada Soccer released a statement saying it would meet three requirements set by the Canadian Women’s National Team Players’ Association.
The federation called on the federation to commit to creating a safe environment for athletes and to apologize to those who “have been victimized and abused in the practice of the sport they love”.
The association also called on Canada Soccer to initiate a “transparent, independent review” of the investigation into the allegations made against Bob Birarda while he was employed by the association “in order to fully understand what happened” at a mutually agreed upon date. and develop recommendations and best practices to better protect athletes. “
Birarda, a former coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canada Soccer women’s teams, was charged with sexual offenses involving four people last December. In 2008 he was fired from the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer.
British Columbia prosecutors said Birarda had faced six sexual exploitation cases, two cases of sexual assault and one of child enticement. The alleged crimes occurred between January 1988 and March 25, 2008 in North Vancouver, Burnaby and West Vancouver.
Over a dozen women who played for the Whitecaps and were part of Canada’s under-20 talent pool as of 2008 have accused Birarda of behaving inappropriately towards members of the team.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Birarda appeared in court last December and was released from custody under strict conditions. His case is due to resume in a North Vancouver court on Thursday.
The association also called for the full implementation of the Independent Safe Sport Mechanism and called on the federal government to protect endangered athletes by making it mandatory for all national sports organizations by the end of the year.
“We know we have a responsibility to use this incredible platform,” said Priestman. “And the Canada Soccer players found it really powerful to usher in this new era and celebrate some of the great practices that are being used with Safe Sport and Canada Soccer to also tackle the past and move forward in this new era.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 23, 2021.
Darren Desaulniers, The Canadian Press