TORONTO — Canada's national women's soccer team hadn't played a match since April. With many players in the midst of a break from their respective club teams and a busy few days that included roster cuts, that may have accounted for some of the lack of offence put forth in their international friendly against South Korea.
"I think at times we looked good and at times we looked clunky," Canada coach Bev Priestman said following their 0-0 draw at BMO Field on Sunday. "I think it's probably a reflection of where we've been."
Despite overwhelming their opponents by pushing the pace of play, Canada wasn't able to take advantage of the 67 per cent ball possession they carried against their opponents.
"I think we just need to be OK with that," Priestman said. "At times you're getting shots from 40 yards out. I think it's that real patience and getting the ball into the box in a different way."
Janine Beckie factored on many of those shot attempts from distance. She delivered the ball to several teammates who had chances inside the box but attempts either missed the target or didn't connect.
"Credit to Korea, they're very organized and a very defensive team," Beckie said.
The Canadians dominated the first half with six of their 13 shots toward the opposing goal while carrying a 71 per cent possession advantage. Their attack began in the fourth minute when Beckie’s cross found Jordyn Huitema in the box. Huitema’s header attempt sailed just wide of the goal.
In the 17th minute, Beckie had another kick toward the goal. Kadeisha Buchanan connected with a header that bounced off of South Korean goalkeeper Younggeul Yoon and in front of the net before landing on top of the goal.
Buchanan’s attempt was the only shot on target in the opening half.
The 18th-ranked South Koreans had just two shots fired toward the goal in the opening half with none of them hitting the target. Soyun Ji had the best chance to score when her shot from just outside of the middle of the box went to the left of the goal.
Ji had another scoring chance in the 52nd minute when she carried the ball in from the right side of the box but her attempt was easily corralled by Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.
"She's a little bit like Christine Sinclair, when she's playing," South Korea head coach Colin Bell said of Ji. "I mean this in a positive way that Sinclair can basically do what she wants to do and she's earned that right because she's an excellent player, a world-class player.
"It's the same for us and Ji."
Canada continued to push in search of the opening goal of the match. Second-half substitute Vanessa Gilles headed a corner kick opportunity wide of the goal in the 71st minute.
Nichelle Prince was the last of five substitutions for the sixth-ranked Canadians in the 75th minute as they put several attempts at the net forward toward the end of the match. In the final flurry of injury time, Canada had three consecutive shots toward the goal. Buchanan and Gilles' shot was saved and Deanne Rose's chance was blocked.
"I thought we played very well and thoroughly deserved the point (sic) that we got," Bell said. "And maybe if our girls were a little bit further in their physical ability we could have won the game."
South Korea finished as the runner-up at the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup Final.
Canada, the defending Olympic champions, finished the match with a 13-3 advantage in shots.
Sinclair did not enter the match, despite being made available as a reserve. She did not take part in training on Saturday after Priestman disclosed on Friday that the veteran forward is dealing with an undisclosed injury.
The match, played in front of 15,616 fans, served as Canada’s only tune-up before next month’s CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico. That tournament will serve as a qualifier for both the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.
NOTE: Before the match, Canada Soccer honoured former player Diana Matheson, who retired last year just before the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Jessie Fleming played in her 100th cap for the national team and dressed as the captain in place of Sinclair.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2022.
David Alter, The Canadian Press