It’s an easy life in goal when the fifth-ranked team in the world - Canada - faces off against the 46th-ranked team - Cameroon - but the scoreline didn’t show the same domination that the statistics did. In their first match at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Canada came away with just a 1-0 win despite dominating in every statistical category. Between the pipes, North Carolina Courage starting goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe had a mostly easy afternoon. In 90 minutes of action, Labbe faces just four shots with zero on frame. Cameroon tried to be extremely direct, but the forwards could never break in behind the back line to face up against the goalkeeper.
The match wasn’t quite what the world was expecting. Canada was widely predicted to win by multiple goals and cruise past Cameroon with ease. The African side came out with a defensive 5-4-1 lineup, but they didn’t park the bus behind the ball. They consistently tried to push forward, but Canada was able to stifle the attack with relative ease. The Canadians controlled 74% of the possession and had 80% passing accuracy compared to Cameroon’s 51%. This had the making of a much bigger scoring advantage for Canada, but they just weren’t playing the kind of soccer that generated goals. Their lone goal of the match came when center back Kadeisha Buchanan made an unmarked run into the box on a corner kick and headed the ball into the goal just before the end of the first half.
As far as play from Cameroon was concerned, there was very little for Labbe to do, but she did have two moments that might have been disastrous.
In the first, Labbe received a bouncing pass back from her defender. The attacking player, sensing the tough pass, continued her run at the keeper. Labbe was unable to properly control the pass and her touch was heavy. She was able to run down the ball and clear it away and out of danger, but it was still an unforced error that could have given Cameroon a free shot on goal.
Her second mistake came later in the second half, when Labbe underplayed a ball to her defender. The pass was weak and the defender nearly came away with the steal, but Canada was able to avert the danger and maintain control on the game. Otherwise, the match was quite boring for Labbe, who played the ball more as a defender than a goalkeeper throughout the match. Canada faced four corner kicks, and they let Cameroon have a flash of opportunity near the end when an unmarked player go her head on the ball, but she sent it wide and Labbe was never called into action.
Canada’s second match of the tournament is against New Zealand at 3:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 15th. That’s also the next time that the Courage play, so we can all get a double dose of our players. Labbe and Abby Erceg, who plays for New Zealand, will both be playing in that match.