Canada finds the net against Wales and England

Two games, five goals and four goalscorers – is Canada’s goalscoring drought finally coming to an end?

Nichelle Prince and Leah Williamson battle for the ball.
Canada's Nichelle Prince and England's Leah Williamson battle for the ball. (Photo by Mike Egerton)

Canada appear to have found their goalscoring form in their second camp of 2021. It all comes thanks to a pair of friendlies in the United Kingdom. 

After dispatching Wales 3-0 last Friday courtesy of goals from Deanne Rose, Evelyne Viens and Jessie Fleming, Canada were primed to face England on Tuesday. 

Canada’s second against Wales was Viens’ first for the national side. In just her fifth cap, the University of South Florida alumnus latched onto the end of a Janine Beckie cross. With a first-time effort, she converted the ball past Laura O’Sullivan around the hour mark. 

Viens came off the bench in the first half. She replaced Christine Sinclair, who limped off the field after a collision in the 29th minute.

The performance was enough to warrant Viens a first start for Canada against England. The decision paid dividends for head coach Bev Priestman, who faced her former side for the first time since her departure

Capitalizing on a mistake by Demi Stokes, Viens held her ground long enough to muscle past the scrambling defender. She then poked the ball home beyond Carly Telford in the third minute of the match.

Nichelle Prince would later come off the bench to secure Canada’s victory with four minutes of regular time remaining after applying pressure to Karen Bardsley in goal.

Goalscoring difficulties and Olympic preparation

Coming into this month’s camp, the Canadian women’s national team rightfully faced questions about their prowess in front of goal.

At the SheBelieves Cup in February, the Canadians struggled mightily to find the net. In fact, they only managed to score just once in the 92nd minute of their second game against Argentina (ranked 22 places below Canada in FIFA’s world rankings). The goal came when 21-year-old Sarah Stratigakis managed to turn in Janine Beckie’s free kick.

Canada had also failed to convert their chances against the United States and Brazil in the tournament. This compounded the difficulties that have long faced the team overly reliant on Sinclair.

The return to form comes at an opportune time for Priestman’s side, as they prepare to compete in the Tokyo Olympics this summer. 

With Sinclair expected to make a full return well before the tournament and Beckie all but guaranteed a roster spot thanks in part to her return to form, the selection competition has well and truly heated up thanks to the performances of the past week. 

National team regulars Rose and Prince have shown their hunger by finding the target against Wales and England, respectively. PSG’s Jordyn Huitema also returned to action after missing out on the SheBelieves Cup due to COVID travel restrictions. 

After playing with a broken metatarsal through the SheBelieves Cup, West Ham’s Adriana Leon has targeted a return from injury by Canada’s June camp.

With Viens’ emergence as a proven attacking threat at the senior level and only 18 roster spots up for grabs, Priestman will undoubtedly face some difficult decisions when the time comes to name her squad for Tokyo.

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