MATCH ANALYSIS: Canada dumped out of Women’s World Cup with heavy 4-0 defeat

Final Score: Canada 0-4 Australia
Goalscorers: Raso 9′ + 39′, Fowler 58′, Catley 90+4′ (PK)
2023 Women’s World Cup
Group B Matchday 3

Match Recap

Canada were eliminated from the Women’s World Cup at the Group Stage for the first time since 2011 on Monday, knocked out with a 4-0 loss to the co-hosts Australia in their third and final match Down Under.

After a back-and-forth beginning to the match, in which Canada started with a lot more urgency than they did in their past two matches to match the intensity of their opponents, it was the home side that took the lead in the ninth minute.

Steph Catley charged down the left side of the pitch before playing the ball into the penalty area, where it bounced in front of a lunging Vanessa Gilles. It fell to Hayley Raso, who took a touch and fired a low shot back across goal, beating Kailen Sheridan to give Australia the early lead. The goal was initially called back for an offside on the pass that played Catley in behind the Canadian backline, but after a quick check from the Video Assistant Referee, the goal was awarded.

Catley and Rasa nearly combined for a second goal a few minutes later, as the Australian captain found her teammate in the box again, but Raso’s low shot was denied by an impressive, and important, diving stop from Sheridan.

Canada were struggling to break out of their own half against a Matildas side that was pressing them really high up the pitch, and and when they were finding opportunities to get in behind, they weren’t taking advantage of them. There were a lot of sideways and backwards passes instead of moving up the pitch. Canada had three shots in the opening 45 minutes, but none of them on target, and their best scoring opportunity a header from Jordyn Huitema that went high and wide.

Australia put the ball into the back of the net again in the 34th minute, as Mary Fowler fired the ball into the back of the net from close range after Canada failed to clear their lines. After a save from Sheridan, Kadeisha Buchanan was defending on the line, but Fowler fired the ball into the roof of the goal. The VAR got involved again, and this time ruled out the goal, saying that Ellie Carpenter was marginally offside as the ball was shot.

That should have been a lifeline for Canada, but the Matildas were persistent, and ended up scoring a few minutes later to double the lead, and this time it counted. After a corner from Kyra Cooney-Cross was whipped into the penalty area, the ball fell to Raso a few yards out, and she made no mistake, putting the ball into the back of the net for her second goal of the game. Sheridan was unable to take control of her box, and none of the defenders cleared the ball away, allowing Australia to double their advantage.

It was 2-0 going into the break, leaving Canada with a steep uphill battle — needing at least a draw to move on to the next round. Bev Priestman made four bold substitutions at halftime, replacing Christine Sinclair, Jordyn Huitema, Julia Grosso, and Jayde Riviere with Cloé Lacasse, Deanne Rose, Sophie Schmidt and Allysha Chapman to try and spark some life into her side.

Canada didn’t start the second half particularly well, however, and in the 58th minute things went from bad to worse. Fowler was left alone in the penalty area as one of many waves of Australian attacks came up the pitch, wide open after drifting into the box. She redirected a low pass into the bottom right corner, off the inside of the post to make it 3-0 and essentially put the game to bed.

It took until the 70th minute for Canada’s first shot on target, a low shot from the substitute Rose that was turned away by Mackenzie Arnold. In the 89th minute, Evelyne Viens also tested Arnold from distance with a hard strike toward the top right corner, but the Australian goalkeeper was able to push the ball out for a corner. Nothing would come from the ensuing set piece, as the clock continued to wind down.

A late penalty from Steph Catley put the icing on the cake for the Aussies as they made it 4-0 in stoppage time. It was the final nail in the coffin, kicking off the celebrations in Melbourne. The Matildas confirmed that they had won Group B and moved onto the next round at their home World Cup. It’s the first time they have won their group at the Women’s World Cup, and deservedly so after a dominant victory.

For Canada there were a lot of dropped heads and tears at the final whistle, as the tournament came to an end for the reigning Olympic champions. It brings to an end the international career of Sophie Schmidt, as well as likely the final World Cup appearance of Christine Sinclair’s career. Bev Priestman seemed to be delivering a passionate speech in a huddle after the final whistle, but whatever was said was too little, too late.

Three Observations

Goals hard to come by as Canada are knocked out early

Their inability to score goals on a consistent basis has been the story for the Canadian women’s national team for quite some time, and that worrying trend continued in this Women’s World Cup. Whether it’s a lack of creating the opportunities to begin with, or finishing the ones they do get, every single time Canada takes the pitch this issue comes up, and it was almost to be expected.

Against Nigeria in their opening match, and against Australia on Monday, it was the former that plagued them. The Canadian attackers struggled to get service in to their strikers, and the midfielders often played sideways and backwards passes instead of trying to progress the ball up the pitch. Every player was second-best on the day, and Canada never got a rhythm going. Credit must also be given to Australia in that regard, as the Matildas were ruthless from minute one.

On Wednesday against the Republic of Ireland, Canada’s first goal came from an own goal, while the winner was a well-executed pass from Sophie Schmidt and finish from Adriana Leon. They picked up three valuable points in that match, but Les Rouges had 17 shots, with seven of them on target — many of them right at the goalkeeper.

How Bev Priestman’s side goes about fixing this issue will be interesting to watch, and is absolutely crucial to the future of the program.

Australian attackers finally rewarded with goals for their efforts

Even without star attacker Sam Kerr, who missed all three group matches with a calf injury, Australia put in a few good attacking performances during the group stage, but the one against Canada was of course their best.

In their opening match against the Republic of Ireland, it took a Steph Catley penalty to pick up the three points, but the Matildas had 13 shots in the match. Only two of them, including the penalty, hit the target, but they were finding success getting forward even if they weren’t putting the ball into the net. In that sense, it was similar to how Canada looked in this tournament — a lot of shots, but a lack of clinical finishing.

In their second match against Nigeria they put on a show, getting a remarkable 28 shots away, but again were struggling to put them on target. Just eight of them were on target, including their two goals, but they conceded three goals and ended up on the losing end despite spending much of the game on the front foot.

On matchday three they finally showed their ability to both create the chances and finish them off, putting four past a Canadian side that has a reputation for being one of the better defensive teams in the world on their day. They dominated in wide areas in particular, with Catley making runs down the left side that Canada found difficult to defend. Caitlin Foord and Emily van Egmond joined in, creating a left flank that gave Canada nightmares.

Hayley Raso scored twice — and would have had a hat trick if not for a great save from Kailen Sheridan — Mary Fowler scored the third Australian goal and had another disallowed, and Catley put the game to bed with a stoppage time penalty in the second half. It was a brilliant offensive showing, complete with four goals, as the Australians won the group and advance to the Round of 16 at their home World Cup.

Sheridan and defenders struggle to control their own penalty area

Canada is typically known for being a strong defensive side, which they need to be when they aren’t scoring on a consistent basis. In this match, however, they looked shaky and out of control against an Australian side that punished them for it. Most concerning was Canada’s inability to clear their lines when defending in their own penalty area. They conceded a few times in this tournament from such positions, including three times in this match.

On Australia’s first goal, a cross into the box wasn’t cleared by Vanessa Gilles — who lunged for the ball as it came in — and none of the other Canadians defending their own goal were able to get to the ball first or block Raso’s shot. Raso nearly scored a few minutes later as well, getting on the end of another pass from Catley and putting it on target, but Kailen Sheridan was able to get down and stop it. Mary Fowler’s disallowed goal in the first half was similar in that Canada couldn’t clear the ball away from the pressing Australian attackers, and the ball ended up in the back of the net. Fortunately in that moment for Canada, Ellie Carpenter was offside and the goal was disallowed.

Raso’s second goal, later in the first half, might have been the most disappointing of all from Canada’s perspective. Kyra Cooney-Cross played the ball into the box from a corner, and none of the Canadian defenders met it in the air, despite winning aerial duels being something they pride themselves on. Kailen Sheridan also failed to get up and punch the ball away, seemingly focused more on the Australian attacker standing near her than the ball being floated to right where she was standing. It fell to Raso, who poked it home from point blank range.

On Fowler’s second-half goal, the Canadian defenders didn’t track her run into the box, and she was left alone, allowing her to receive a low pass in the box and put off the inside of the right post and into the back of the net. Fowler was in the six-yard box when she swept the ball home, and the Canadians were well and truly out of it after going down 3-0.

At their best, Canada can go toe-to-toe with any group of attackers in the world — they won the Olympic gold medal by doing so. Monday, however, was a very different story. Player of the Match

Hayley Raso, Australia

The Australian attacker scored a first half brace to propel her country to the top of Group B, and a spot in the Round of 16. A brilliant save from Kailen Sheridan denied her a hat trick as well.

What’s next?

Canada’s tournament is done, but Australia will move on to play the Group D runners up in the Round of 16 next Monday. All Women’s World Cup matches can be watched live on TSN.

Canada will be in action again in September as they take on Jamaica in a two-legged series to decide which team will be heading to the Paris 2024 Olympics next summer. The second leg will be at BMO Field in Toronto on September 26, after the first leg on September 18 in Jamaica.