South Korea did its job making life difficult for Canada in a women’s international friendly at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday.
Canada could not break down the stubborn Korea defence in a 0-0 draw in front of 15,610 fans. It was the last exhibition game before the Concacaf W Championship in Mexico starting next week.
Canada faces Trinidad and Tobago, Panama and Costa Rica in group play at the eight-team tournament, which also serves as a 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier and a 2024 Paris Olympic qualifier.
“I think it was positive in the sense we had about 70% possession,” Canada forward Janine Beckie said after the game. “It’s a lot of what we’re going to face in Concacaf. It was a really organized South Korean team and you have to give them credit for keeping the ball out of their net.
“But I don’t think we’re satisfied with our performance. I think there is a lot of things we can move forward with; some things we can look at a cleaning up over the next week before we head into qualifying.”
Canada had not played since a pair of exhibition games against Nigeria in April and looked tentative at times going forward against Korea.
Their best chance to score came in the final seconds of the game as Kadeisha Buchanan, Deanne Rose, and Vanessa Gilles were all denied on the goal line off a corner kick from Beckie.
“I think I take it personally as a forward when we don’t score goals and I know I share that same sentiment with the other forwards,” Beckie said. “We’ve been away from each other, this is the first time we’ve been back together since earlier in the year, and it takes time to build those partnerships.
“We’ve got some new faces in the group and we’re regrouping from a really successful last year. We’re going take the positives from this, we know the goals will come. We just need to get that first one, and hopefully, the floodgates will open.”
Canada head coach Bev Priestman put out a strong starting lineup against Korea, featuring centre backs Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky, fullback Ashley Lawrence, midfielders Jessie Fleming, Beckie and striker Jordyn Huitema.
Fleming was making her 100th appearance for Canada, joining Lawrence (106), Buchanan (119), Desiree Scott (177), Sophie Schmidt (213) and Christine Sinclair (310) on the century list.
Sinclair did not play, nursing an injury, but she is expected to be available for Priestman at the Concacaf tournament.
“Credit to Korea, they were an extremely organized back five,” Priestman said. “It’s what we’re going to face and it’s going to set us up well for Concacaf. There was lots of disruption and fouls and stoppages.
“But I think in the grand scheme of things, it’s been a difficult week in terms of hard work, people coming off long seasons and now it’s about rhythm and flow and knew this game was going to be clunky, but we had good chances, now we just have to put them away.”
Canada’s chances against Korea were limited in the first half even though they had the bulk of possession.
Huitema headed an early cross just wide three minutes into the game and then created another opportunity winning a challenge against goalkeeper Youngguel Yoon. The ball dropped to Huitema in the box, but she was unable to find a teammate to put the ball into the empty net.
Canada had 13 shots to three for Korea, with four on target. Korea did not get a single shot on target in the contest against goalkeeper Kailer Sheridan. Canada also had 67% of possession and five corner kicks to one for Korea.
Korea’s biggest threat on the afternoon was striker Ji So-yun, who is their all-time leading scorer.
Just over a half hour into the game, Ji took a pass at the top of the Canada penalty area and bent a right-footed shot, which curled just wide.
In the second half, Canada tried attacking Korea down the wings, but couldn’t put in enough quality crosses to create problems for Yoon.
Priestman emptied her bench in the second half, giving as many players a possible a chance to get in the game.
“We wanted to get more shots on frame (net), after the first half we were kind of getting the butterflies out and were starting to get our chemistry going,” Canada substitute Cloe Lacasse said. “We wanted to get more shots on frame and we wanted to be dangerous.”
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Canada nearly won it at the death when Beckie lofted a corner into the penalty area, which was attacked by Buchanan and headed down towards the net.
Yoon was able to palm the ball away, but if fell to Rose, whose shot hit defender Hyojoo Choo standing on the goal line. The ball then rebounded to Canada fullback Gilles, but her lunging effort was smothered by Yoon.
Canada will now travel to Florida to prepare for the Concacaf Championship. They open the tournament on July 5 against Trinidad and Tobago in Guadalupe, Mexico, then head to San Nicolas de los Garza on July 8 to face Panama and return to Guadalupe on July 11 to play Costa Rica.
The top two teams from group play move on to the semifinal and qualify for the expanded World Cup tournament in Australia and New Zealand next summer.
The winner of the tournament also qualifies for the Olympics, while the finalist and third-place finisher will play in September for the second Olympic qualifying spot.
“We’ve gotten the first few days (of camp) under our belts now and we’re starting to feel better and better going into the Concacaf,” Lacasse said. “Now we’re going to Miami and we’re excited about that and now it’s time to get some wins and bring the title home.”
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