Beckie scores twice to lead Canada's women's soccer team 2-1 over Chile
SAPPORO, JAPAN -- On soccer's biggest stage, and with a berth in the Olympic quarterfinals hanging in the balance, Janine Beckie wasn't about to let a missed penalty shot bring her down.
The Manchester City striker shrugged off the early missed chance in emphatic fashion on Saturday, scoring twice to lead Canada's women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Chile.
The victory all but guarantees the eighth-ranked Canadians, who tied host Japan 1-1 in their opener on Wednesday, a berth in the quarterfinals.
"It's frustrating to miss a penalty to be able to put the team up early on in the game, would have been ideal, but it happens. You can't score if you don't shoot, so I stepped up to take it and I'll continue to step up and take them," Beckie said.
"My job for this team is to score goals. And you know, Nichelle Prince is incredible at putting the ball on a play for me, Ashley Lawrence, Christine (Sinclair), I have players around me that create scoring opportunities for me. So, to be able to reward the team with two goals is great. We came here to win. And so, to be able to help by scoring two goals makes me happy."
The Canadians face Britain on Tuesday at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium to close out Group E action. Britain beat No. 37 Chile 2-0 in their opener.
Beckie scored in the 39th minute at Sapporo Dome, burying a rebound that fell at her feet in the middle of the box after a cross from Prince.
The 26-year-old connected on her second less than two minutes into the second half, taking a through ball from Prince, then deking out Chilean 'keeper Christiane Endler to score into a wide-open net.
Beckie now has five Olympic goals. She scored three at the 2016 Rio Games, where Canada won bronze for the second consecutive Games.
Canadian coach Bev Priestman had expected a tough challenge from the Chileans, who were making their Olympic debut.
"I think it's exactly what I expected the game to be. I've always said that this game was never an easy game," she said. "We made it difficult for ourselves at times. But at the end of the day, we could have had four goals ... so I'm overall happy we came here to get three points. That's exactly what we did."
Beckie's goals made up for her disappointment in the 20th minute, when she clanged a penalty shot off the right post. The penalty was awarded after Sinclair was taken down in the box. The 38-year-old superstar, playing in her 301st career game for Canada, hobbled on her ankle after the incident, but appeared OK minutes later.
Priestman said she assessed Sinclair at halftime, and she was fine to continue.
"We definitely wouldn't have risked her for the rest of the tournament," Priestman said. "At the end, I asked how she was, she said, 'I'm absolutely fine,' so that hopefully fills us with confidence that it won't have a knock-on effect for the rest of the tournament."
Canada appeared to take an early lead on a shot that ricocheted off defender Kadeisha Buchanan and into the net in the sixth minute. The referee waved it off for a hand ball.
Despite their two-goal lead, the Canadians couldn't breathe easy.
Karen Araya made history with Chile's first Olympic women's goal, awarded after Canada's Shelina Zadorsky was whistled for a foul inside the 18-yard box in the 57th minute. Araya launched the ball into the left side of the net, while Canadian 'keeper Kailen Sheridan dived to the opposite corner.
Chile had a chance to tie it in the 72nd minute when a shot from in close banged off the crossbar.
Priestman praised the play of Julia Grosso and Jayde Riviere, who made their Olympic debuts on Saturday, Grosso in the midfield and Riviere on the back line.
"They both came up through the youth system, was really proud of both of those performances," she said.
Their contribution was further evidence of Canada's depth, which Priestman and her team will need in the Olympic tournament, particularly when they leave the comfortable indoor Sapporo Dome.
"I will be calling on the depth I think, for players to go three nights is a big ask. And we're going to go back to the heat now, out of the lovely air-conditioned dome that we're currently in," she said.
Tuesday's game against Britain is key, both for drawing a favourable opponent in the quarterfinals, and helping Canada "massively in terms of belief going into the knockout round," Priestman said.
The teams were able to avoid the sizzling heat in Japan in the indoor stadium in Sapporo, which is about 830 kilometres north of Tokyo. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the match was played in front of no fans in the cavernous 41,000-seat stadium, normally home to baseball's Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and soccer team Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. The voices of the coaches and players hollering directions provided the soundtrack.
Sheridan started in net in place of Stephanie Labbe, who suffered a rib joint injury during her heroic performance against Japan. Labbe was injured challenging an attacker inside the penalty area. She was down for several minutes but stayed in the game to stop a Japanese penalty shot. The 24-year-old Sheridan replaced her in the 58th minute.
The Canadian team has 12 members of the teams that won bronze under former coach John Herdman in the previous two Olympics. Canada, under Priestman, has boldly stated their goal for Tokyo is to "change the colour" of the medal.
Eight teams will advance from the 12-country round robin to the knockout stage. The final is set for Aug. 6 at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2021.