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Sinclair's last-minute penalty rescues Canada in World Cup opener


John Herdman knows his team dodged a bullet.

Canada, opening the 2015 Women's World Cup in front of a boisterous, record-breaking crowd of 53,058 at Commonwealth Stadium - the largest sports crowd in Canadian history for a national team event - came out decidedly flat. The eight-ranked team in the world struggled to put flowing attacking moves together, and when they did, the final ball was often lacking.

As the clock ticked into stoppage time, it looked as though the host nation was on the verge of a disappointing draw with China.

Christine Sinclair, with some help from match official Kateryna Monzul, ensured that didn't happen. Of course it was the captain. After scoring 153 international goals, what was one more?

A 92nd-minute penalty from Sinclair, who stepped to the spot after substitute Adriana Leon took an elbow to the face from Chinese defender Zhao Rong inside the area, was enough to give the hosts a massive three points in Group A action.

Herdman admitted after the match his side needs to be much better, but was quick to point out they needn't make major changes to accomplish that goal.

"The only chances China had, we gave them, and we'll clean that up, I promise you," he said.

Indeed, the chances China did enjoy - aside from a brilliant free-kick in the opening half from Wang Lisi that careened off both posts before bouncing out to safety - were born of sloppiness from the Canadian defense. Lauren Sesselmann, in particular, looks to still be struggling after recovering from a torn ACL.

Progress will be required if the hosts are to make good on what many expect to be a best-ever World Cup performance.

After finishing the 2011 edition of the competition without a win, they're already doing just that.

The Goals

92nd minute - Christine Sinclair, Canada: Pressure? What pressure. Sinclair, the greatest Canadian soccer player of all-time - and one of the best ever regardless of nationality - slotted home her aforementioned penalty with pinpoint accuracy, sliding it off the inside of the post and into the mesh. An inch closer to the 'keeper, who dove the right way on the attempt, and Canada would have come away with one point instead of all three.

(Courtesy: FIFA Women's World Cup)

Woman of the Match - Sophie Schmidt

The Canadian midfielder, who came within inches of scoring a laser beam into the top corner that would have brought the house down in Edmonton, was bestowed with the tournament's inaugural player of the match award.

(Courtesy: FIFA Women's World Cup)

Herdman has long said Schmidt, 26, has all the qualities necessary to be one of the very best players in the world. If she continues to control matches in the centre of the park, she will be.

The 1,000 Words

We call this work of art "The Primal Roar."

(Courtesy: Sports Illustrated)

Stray Thoughts

  • Herdman has some decisions to make in regards to his team selection. Attackers Melissa Tancredi and Jonelle Filigno were ineffectual playing together up front ahead of Sinclair, and with Leon looking menacing upon her introduction - even before winning the penalty - the 22-year-old could well be inserted into the starting lineup for the June 11 contest against New Zealand.
  • Don't sleep on China. Ranked 16th in the world, the Chinese are a stubborn, difficult side to break down, and while they will likely struggle to score goals, it's not beyond the realm of comprehension that they spring an upset by grinding out a 1-0 win over either the Netherlands or New Zealand.
  • The blistering heat, in combination with the artificial turf, seemed to drain the energy of the players as the contest progressed. It will be something worth watching as the tournament continues.

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