Canada women's Olympic soccer team gets off to strong start, Sinclair scores in draw vs. Japan

Written By Simon Borg
Stephanie Labbe - CanWNT - 2021 Olympics
Getty Images

The Canadian women's national soccer team got off to a strong start at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics with a 1-1 Group E draw against host Japan. It's a good start but the Canadians will feel like they probably could've come away with more.

Forward legend Christine Sinclair opened the scoring in the 6th minute. The lead held up deep into the second half thanks in part to a penalty-kick save by starting goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe in the 54th minute. It was looking like Canada would come away with a big win, until Japan star Mana Iwabuchi equalized on a world-class finish with six minutes to go.

A Canadian team that struggled to score goals in the lead-up to the tournament had a dream start when Sinclair added to her world-record total with her 187th goal after a patented run by Nichelle Prince down the right side. Sinclair, who was making her 300th international appearance in the match followed up her own rebound after her initial shot from the Prince cross struck the post.

Labbe helped preserve the momentary lead with several fine saves, including on the penalty kick. But she picked up an injury on the collision that led to the penalty and Labbe ultimately had to come off the field in tears just four minutes after parrying away the spot kick attempt by Japanese forward Mina Tanaka. Gotham FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan came on to replace her.

At one point Canada believed it had a second goal when Janine Beckie scored on the hour mark, but the tally was scratched for an offside infraction. Canada had a total of six shots in the game and one on goal according to official stats.

The 1-1 draw suits Canada just fine as it continues in its quest to improve on the back-to-back bronze medal finishes in the last two Olympics. The top two teams and the two best third-place finishers will advance to the single-elimination quarterfinals. The next match is a winnable one against Chile on Saturday, and then the Canadians will close the group stage with a meeting against group favorites Great Britain.

Group E standings

1. Great Britain 3 1 1 0 0 2 0 +2
2. Canada 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0
3. Japan 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0
4. Chile 0 1 0 1 0 0 2 -2

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