Match Analysis: CanWNT 1-0 Germany — Arnold Clark Cup

Final Score: Canada 1-0 Germany
Goalscorers: Gilles 7′
2022 Arnold Clark Cup — Gameday #2

Match in a minute or less

Canada moved the top of the table at the Arnold Clark Cup on Sunday, beating Germany 1-0 at Carrow Road in Norwich.

Canada got off to a great start, taking the lead in just the seventh minute. After winning a corner, Janine Beckie fired a cross into the penalty box, where a waiting Vanessa Gilles had a pretty much uncontested header. She sent the ball back across the box, between German goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger and a defender, and into the back of the net for the only goal of the opening half, and the first goal of her international career.

Berger was perhaps lucky to still be on the pitch after a 52nd minute challenge that saw her bring down Nichelle Prince. Chasing down a pass through from Quinn, Prince tried to round the goalkeeper, but Berger left her penalty area and collided with Prince, not really making an attempt at the ball. It was a missed call from the referee, who also missed what appeared to be hand ball from Vanessa Gilles in the first half, and another foul on the edge of the box from Gilles in the second half.

Germany kept pushing for an equalizer, but they couldn’t find one, and Canada held on for a 1-0 victory. With the win, they move to the top of the table with four points, two points ahead of England and Spain who have two points each. Germany sit at the bottom of the table with a single point through two matches.

Three Observations

Vanessa Gilles impresses on both sides of the ball

It seems like every time she steps on the pitch, Vanessa Gilles is one of Canada’s most important players. That was no different on Sunday, as she contributed on both sides of the ball, and was involved in some game-defining moments, for better or worse.

The thing she will remember most from this match is her first international goal. After Janine Beckie lifted a corner kick into the penalty area, Gilles positioned herself perfectly and headed the ball back in the direction in came, into the net. Canada have been trying to work on creating opportunities from set pieces and Gilles, one of the best aerial threats in the team, scored the team’s first set piece goal since January 2020.

“We came into this tournament having not scored a set play goal for a year, and then Vanessa goes and puts it in the back of the net, and that’s straight from the work being done on the training ground,” Priestman said after the match, noting that Canada has been putting an emphasis on set pieces with Jen Hurst, their new goalkeeping and set piece coach.

“Jen has been absolutely fantastic, she’s come in straight off the bat and tried to innovate and bring new ideas to our set pieces,” said Gilles after the match. “Not just this camp, but with our previous coach Mike Norris, we’ve been working on these set piece for quite some time, a year now. We’re happy to have been able to capitalise today, and hopefully moving forward we have a lot more to show for that as well.”

Defensively, Gilles is so calm under pressure, and once again put in a big performance alongside Kadeisha Buchanan at centre-back. Several important blocks, including a sliding effort to clear away a low cross into the box in the first half, were proof once again that Gilles is indispensable.

She was lucky to get away with a few penalty shouts in this match, one in either half, however. In the first half she tried to pull her arm away in order to block a shot with her chest, but the ball struck her arm, and it wasn’t called by the referee. In the second half she made weak contact with the ball when attempting to head it back to Kailen Sheridan, dragging down a German attacker in the moments after, but it too wasn’t picked up by the referee.

Germany control a lot of the ball, but were missing the final pass

Germany controlled a lot of the ball in Sunday’s match, but for the most part it didn’t translate to high-quality scoring chances. Nicole Anyomi in particular was impressive for Germany, creating a number of opportunities by beating players with the ball at her feet, but like many of her teammates, they lacked that final pass needed to truly break down Gilles and Buchanan. 

Germany head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said as much after the match — she was pleased with parts of the performance but acknowledged that they weren’t at their best. 

“It’s difficult for me to analyse this game, it’s still emotional now, but I can say that we tried everything and that it was a set piece conceded for the 1-0,” Voss-Tecklenburg said through a translator after the match. “We defended quite well, did not allow too many dangerous situations, but offensively the last pass was missing at times, at least in the first half.

“After the break we did a lot better with that, but we didn’t manage to reward ourselves. In the end we lost, but I don’t quite know why, because we showed a lot of passion and heart in this game, and we invested a lot of work.”

On the occasions where the Germans did test Kailen Sheridan, the Canadian goalkeeper was equal to it. In the final moments of the first half she made a diving stop to deny Klara Buhl’s shot across the goal, and made another two huge stops late in the second half — including a stoppage time free kick — to keep her clean sheet intact.

Canada look more confident in attack

Against England in their opening match of the Arnold Clark Cup, Canada look hesitant at times. They played a lot of backwards passes, and with the exception of a few line-breaking passes from Jessie Fleming, didn’t create much offensively. Against Germany they looked more positive at times, and created a lot more chances on the counter attack.

A lot of those chances were started in midfield by Quinn. They started at the base of Canada’s midfield after coming off the bench against England, and was crucial to the transition game. Quinn is a strong tackler, and on several occasions won the ball back before playing a pass over the German defenders for Nichelle Prince, Cloe Lacasse or Janine Beckie to run onto.

“What we see from Quinn is they constantly show for the ball, have bravery on the ball and like you’ve seen today, doesn’t just play between lines, has no problem playing early behind the backline,” said Priestman. “When you’ve got someone who constantly shows for the ball, is brave whether there’s pressure or not, you trust to give them the ball — I think it makes a big difference to how you build up.

“We used to be a team that played a lot sideways and backwards, but we’re trying to now say ‘take risks’, because we’ve got really good players to win the ball back quickly and take those risks. I thought that Quinn tonight was a big contributor in making sure we got behind that German backline.”

Prince had a few chances in particular that were just lacking the final clinical shot. There was also a moment in the second half where Quinn played Prince through on goal, and Prince tried to round Ann-Katrin Berger for an easy tap-in, but the German goalkeeper knocked her over and denied a goalscoring opportunity.

“It was a very transitional, scrappy game,” Priestman said. “I thought we started really well, bright, but the last 20 minutes of the game we just found a way to win. We defintely had some chances, Nichelle (Prince) twice. We had our chances, we could have put them away. Ultimately we found a way to win, and the team put everything out there to make sure we won.”

Canada’s struggles to create goals from open play are well-documented, but it isn’t easy to work on that when missing arguably your top three strikers. Christine Sinclair missed the tournament after her mother passed away, Evelyne Viens was left off the roster for this camp, and Jordyn Huitema was ruled out of the match with an injury.

The only update from Priestman about Huitema was that her omission from the squad was precautionary, and that they hope she’s available for the match against Spain on Wednesday.

“Obviously we’re short of forwards, Jordyn (Huitema) was ruled out of this game,” Priestman said. “When you talk about legs, second game, [players] out of season, I think you’ve probably seen that in the second half for sure.”

“Canada’s been known as a nitty-gritty, loves-to-defend kind of team, I think that’s our bread and butter,” said Gilles. “This tournament we’ve really tried to focus as well on progressing, and taking that next step in terms of keeping the ball and being more dangerous on the ball. With the lack of forwards that we’ve had, we weren’t able to do that with the lack of legs in the last 20 minutes, but you can see with our play against England and the beginning against Germany that we are trying to develop and play through our midfield, and I think that’s going to be massively important for us going forward.” Player of the Match

Vanessa Gilles, Canada

While she was lucky to get away with a couple of borderline penalties, the Canadian defender scored the winning goal and impressed defensively.

What’s next?

In Canada’s third and final match at the 2022 Arnold Clark Cup, Canada take on Spain — who drew 1-1 with Germany in their first match and 0-0 with England in their second match. Canada vs Spain kicks off at 9:30 am EST on Wednesday, February 23, and can be watched on TSN.