Canadian women look to dispatch Spain, successfully defend Algarve Cup title

Canadian women look to defend Algarve Cup

Going into Wednesday’s Algarve Cup final against Spain, captain Christine Sinclair says Canada’s mission hasn’t wavered since the first day of the 12-team competition in Portugal.

“Our goal coming into this tournament was to win back-to-back Algarve Cups,” she said. “Being a top-ranked team in the world, this is what you do. You go to tournaments to win.

“We’ve put ourselves in the right position. We now just have to perform one more game.”

Fourth-ranked Canada and No. 14 Spain both finished with 2-0-1 records in group play to move into the tournament final at Estadio Algarve in Sao Joao da Venda. 

The Canadians defeated No. 15 Denmark 1-0 and No. 23 Russia 2-1 before tying No. 38 Portugal 0-0. Spain beat No. 7 Japan 2-1 and No. 11 Norway 3-0 before tying No. 20 Iceland 0-0.

The two finalists have never faced each other before.

Spain had a poor World Cup in Canada in 2015, exiting after the first round with an 0-2-1 record. But Canada coach John Herdman says this Spanish team is an up-and-coming squad.

“This is the group now that I think is going to carry Spain forward as one of the powerhouses in women’s football in Europe,” he said.

The Spaniards are building towards the July start of the women’s European championship. Canada, in contrast, arrived in Portugal with just one match under its belt since winning bronze at the Rio Olympics.

Given that it’s a new quadrennial, Herdman has taken a young team to Portugal. Seventeen of his 22 players are 23 or younger, including seven teenagers.

Alex Lamontagne, 20, won her first cap against Russia and started against Portugal. Fullback Lindsay Agnew, 21, made her debut against Portugal off the bench.

Herdman has yet to unleash Jordyn Huitema, a 15-year-old forward from Chilliwack, B.C., seen as a future star.

“She’s just a great kid,” said Sinclair, who made her senior debut at 16. “She just wants to learn, just soaking everything in. Physically she’s a beast and I mean that in the best possible way. She’s like six feet tall and probably the fastest player on our team.

“She’s one of those that you just know when she gets her chance, she’s going to run with it. She’s got a knack for goal. And especially with a coach like John, you know he’s going to take care of her and develop her at the right stage. But she’s one for the future for sure.”

Sinclair, at 33 still very much the team talisman, sees great things ahead.

“It’s a long cycle before the next World Cup and Olympics,” she said. “(Herdman) is giving these youngsters a chance to show themselves and so far they’ve done a great job … It’s exciting to see the future of this team.

“I mean they’re incredible. It’s going to be a fun couple of years.”

With two goals in three games at the tournament, Sinclair is still playing her part with aplomb. She now has 167 goals in 254 appearances.

NOTES: Attacking midfielder Sophie Schmidt and fullback Allysha Chapman are both nursing injuries going into the final. Herdman played all three goalkeepers — Stephanie Labbe, Sabrina D’Angelo and Kailen Sheridan — in the group games. 

 

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press