British hopes of a football double in the weekend quarter-finals were extinguished in disappointing fashion last night when the women's team turned in their worst performance of the tournament and were knocked out by a side who had finished only third in their group. Having not conceded a goal in three group games, Britain let in two in the opening 25 minutes and were going uphill from then on.
The lack of a natural goalscorer in attack, which had previously been compensated for by goals from defenders, finally proved their undoing and a Canadian goalkeeper who had earlier looked suspect was not given sufficient work. One routine save in the opening quarter of an hour was the sum of it.
Canada, coached by the Geordie John Herdman, will now play a North American derby against the United States in the semi-final at Old Trafford on Monday, while Japan, having knocked out Brazil, play France at Wembley.
"We probably didn't get into our groove until they'd scored two goals," the Great British coach, Hope Powell, said. "Credit to Canada, who were very physical and muscled us out of the game."
If the first goal was hardly a surprise, given Canada's early domination, the second was a body blow, coming just as Britain were forcing their way back into the game. Both were well taken, the first in the 12th minute supremely so. Sophie Schmidt took a corner on the right that Jonelle Filigno met with a scorching half-volley from close to the penalty spot that Karen Bardsley had little to no hope of saving.
The goalkeeper might have done better with the second one, a free-kick awarded when Kim Little was adjudged to have fouled Desiree Scott, and Canada's captain Christine Sinclair, scorer of almost 150 international goals, curled her low free-kick past Bardsley's dive after the wall had split.
Urged on by an impressively vociferous crowd not very far short of the ground's 32,000 capacity, Powell's team had begun to create some chances in between times. The best of them came when Alex Scott, the adventurous right-back, won the ball in an attacking area and crossed for Karen Carney to head just past the angle of bar and post.
Canada, "organised and structured" according to Powell, were proving that and more, giving no room to Arsenal's Ellen White, who was awarded her first start with her club-mate Kelly Smith not risking a minor injury. With White regularly crowded out, further scoring opportunities were slow to arrive and it was not until just after the hour that Steph Houghton, the leading scorer with three goals, was sufficiently far forward to hit a shot that sailed high and wide.
White could not complain at being replaced just after that by the Evertonian Fara Williams, who came into midfield with Little and the taller Jill Scott pushed further forward. In contrast, Melissa Tancredi, who plays professionally in Sweden and went into the game as the tournament's top scorer, needed careful watching and had willing support from Sinclair.
Britain had not managed an attempt on target since midway through the first half and there was an increasing air of desperation about both their play and the crowd's encouragement. The nearest they came to forcing a close finish was when a legitimate penalty appeal was turned down by the Japanese referee after Rhian Wilkinson clipped Eniola Aluko.
Woman of the match Sinclair.
Match rating 5/10.
Referee S Yamagishi (Japan).
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