Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jun 16 2015, Page 22

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - June 16, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE C3 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup winnipegfreepress. com WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 2015 C3 ONE last match before Investors Group Field returns to business as usual — and today, city and teams will say goodbye to the Women’s World Cup together. The 4 p. m. game will be Winnipeg’s seventh and final tournament match. It will also be Ecuador’s last as they face Japan. There isn’t much at stake in this game. After two blowout Group C losses, Ecuador knows they won’t move on to the Round of 16. Japan, on the other hand, was one of the first sides to clinch their spot in the knockout rounds. It is a lopsided lineup, with the 48thranked team in the world facing off against the electric Japan side. Still, this is Ecuador’s first World Cup, and their roster is very young. Their most experienced player, 29- year- old defender Nancy Aguilar, has 48 international caps; half the Japanese roster has more. Ecuador striker Ambar Torres leads her team with 10 goals in 24 games. They are growing, though. They’ve already started. “ This tournament has been an eyeopener for us,” head coach Vanessa Arauz said Sunday, through a FIFA interpreter. “ When we left Ecuador, we were a bit blind. Now, we better understand what has to be done to play better, to be world- class players.” To be blunt, there isn’t much hope for Ecuador, not against the reigning Women’s World Cup champions. Through their first two matches, Ecuador was outscored by 15 goals. Even if coach Norio Sasaki rests his top guns, Japan’s back- up firepower should be able to handle the job. “ No matter who the opponent is, I think it’s important we are able to compete,” Sasaki said Sunday, through an interpreter. “ Even if they are to rest, of course sometimes there may be some positive aspects, but sometimes resting too much could be an issue.” So maybe this match is less a story of the game at present, and more a tale of the shape of the women’s game to come — and a rare chance for Winnipeggers to see the soccer world’s present and future together on the pitch. It’s not just the players who are young. It’s everything around Ecuador: at just 26, Arauz is the youngest manager in the tournament. She was already six years old when Ecuador fielded its first national women’s team, a patchwork roster cobbled together for the continental championship in 1995. For years, women’s soccer in Ecuador existed like that, haphazard. Two years ago that began to change. Ecuador launched the Campeonato Ecuatoriano de Fútbol Femenino, its first regular women’s league. It’s amateurlevel competition, and for the most part the players don’t get paid. Still, they are finally able to compete on a regular basis and develop their skills at home. Most of this Women’s World Cup roster was drawn from those ranks, Arauz noted, and she said the league made a “ significant effort” to support the team on the road to Canada. Still, the side doesn’t get to play or train as often as she would like. The road to a world champion has to begin somewhere, with steady forward steps. Arauz would like to see more girls’ programs in schools — most players in Ecuador now start learning the game around age 15, she said. “ We need to make a lot of headway,” Arauz said. “ We know we need to work ( a longer) amount of time, with more continuity, if possible 365 days a year... we have seen only the tip of the iceberg. Now we see what underlies the tip. We do have potential, but we have to invest.” Against Japan, they have one final chance to show that potential on the largest stage. Arauz stated flatly she does not expect Ecuador to win the game. She does expect them to try and limit the goals against, to defend better, to wring every second of life out of those 90- plus minutes they can get. “ We may be defeated, we will always hold our heads high,” Arauz said. “ Success and defeat are two sides of the same coin. Because if I dream, if I take risks, if I confront the challenge, I may win, I may lose. But the person who never takes upon themselves the challenge will never grow, will never develop.” melissa. martin@ freepress. mb. ca JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ecuador’s coach Vanessa Arauz fully expects Japan to win today, but ‘ we will always hold our heads high.’ By Melissa Martin Ecuador a soccer baby, but growing quickly H AD you offered the Canadian national women’s soccer team top spot in Group A ahead of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, they’d have bitten your hand off. Had you offered them a single win and just two goals ( one from open play) they’d have likely taken a pass. But the two scenarios — both of which were fulfilled by Monday’s 1- 1 draw with the Netherlands — combine to describe the reality of this team, what it has accomplished so far and its prospects for the next few weeks. Canada, with a first- place finish, can now look forward to a Roundof- 16 encounter with one of Australia, Cameroon, South Korea, Spain and Sweden, and while the assignment remains tricky it is considerably more straightforward than the showdown with Switzerland that might have awaited had they finished second, or an appointment with either Germany or Japan the fate for finishing third. Job 1 for this side, as players and management said from the outset, was always to win the section, and now that they’ve done it they can prepare for the next phase of the tournament. Spun a certain way their performances were professional, if uninspiring; twisted another they’ll make tasty fodder for a Norway, Colombia, France or England in the quarter- finals. But that’s still some way down the road, and who’s to say they can’t improve further before then? Certainly not John Herdman. The Canadian manager made a handful of changes for the match in Montreal, and youngsters Jessie Fleming, 17, and Adriana Leon, 22, repaid him with meaningful displays. Conversely, neither midfielder Kaylyn Kyle nor defender Carmelina Moscato did much to justify another chance in the starting 11. Kyle, who was deputizing for the yellow- carded Desiree Scott at Olympic Stadium, was overrun at times in the centre of the park, and Moscato, who started for the gaffe- prone Lauren Sesselmann, coughed up the ball in the build- up to Kirsten Van de Ven’s late equalizer. In other words, the personnel adjustments were both good and bad — a basic metaphor for Canada’s World Cup to date. Even so, there are reasons for hope. Fleming and Leon are two of them, and 20- year- old midfielder Ashley Lawrence is another. She opened the scoring after 10 minutes with a composed finish and seemed to place herself in helpful positions throughout the balance of the match. Then there is Kadeisha Buchanan, the 19- year- old centre- back who is yet to put a foot wrong at this competition. Already one of the world’s best defenders, and perhaps the best, she has been so dominant it’s sometimes as though there are several of her on the pitch at once — numerous Buchanans putting out fires all over the surface. Had it not been for Moscato’s error Canada would have finished their Group A schedule without conceding a goal, as only Brazil still have a chance to do. So let’s put it like this: if you were to offer the Canadians a single goal in the Round of 16 they’d almost certainly take it. They’d be silly not to. OTHER GROUP A MATCH: Monday’s other Group A match was a see- saw contest between China and New Zealand in Winnipeg. Since losing their opener on a dubious Canada penalty in Edmonton, China have played some of the best soccer of the competition and are back into the World Cup knockout stages for the first time since 2007, when they lost to Norway in the quarter- finals. Their 2- 2 draw with the Football Ferns sealed second place in the bracket, and while they’ll avoid the likes of Germany and Japan as a result it’s likely they’ll face a talented Switzerland side on Saturday in Edmonton. Germany, meanwhile, took some time to find the back of the net against Thailand in Monday’s early match at Investors Group Field before prevailing 4- 0 — substitute forward Lena Petermann scoring twice in two minutes shortly before the hour mark. The victory means the two- time world champions will face a thirdplace opponent from one of Group A, C and D. Golden Boot contenders Celia Sasic and Anja Mittag each played 45 minutes of the 90 but could not add to their tallies. Thai defenders Natthakarn Chinwong and Duangnapa Sritala were exceptional, particularly in the first half, and but for their contributions the Asian outfit would surely have gone down to a more lopsided result. jerradpeters@ gmail. com The unlikely Group A winner Two draws and a win enough for Team Canada KICKABOUT JERRAD PETERS PAUL CHIASSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS Canada’s Christine Sinclair ( 12) and Netherlands’ Stefanie Van Der Gragtbattle for the ball during the second half of their match in Montreal on Monday. RYAN REMIORZ / THE CANADIAN PRESS Canada’s goal- scorer, Ashley Lawrence ( right), and the Netherlands’ Anouk Dekker chase the ball Monday in Montreal. C_ 03_ Jun- 16- 15_ FP_ 01. indd C3 6/ 15/ 15 11: 05: 41 PM

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