Canada ease into 2024 tournament mode with 6-0 win over El Salvador

February 23 – Canada eased passed El Salvador 6-0 at the Shell Energy Stadium in Houston in the opening game of their W Gold Cup campaign.

The Olympic Champions, ranked 10th in the world, are the heavyweight contenders in Group C. This win was useful preparation for the bigger challenges ahead. They were on the score sheet within two minutes, were 3-0 up at half time and strolled to 6-0 by full time.

Canada were in good form at the end of 2023. They qualified for the 2024 Paris games with a double win over Jamaica, and followed that up with two pairs of wins over Brazil and Australia in November and December.

On the pitch Canada are evolving and adapting to life after the international retirement of Christine Sinclair who played 331 times for her country, scoring 190 goals. Tonight, in the comfortable 73 degree heat of Houston, she wasn’t missed.

Off the pitch things aren’t quite so comfortable with their players’ union having filed a $40 million lawsuit against 15 current and former board members of Canada Soccer alleging “negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.” Coach Bev Priestman said it was having no effect on the players or their preparation.

El Salvador qualified for the group stage with a 3-1 play-off win over Guyana with Brenda Seren scoring a hat trick.

They had battled into the finals after winning their League B, Nations League group. But ranked 101st in the world, they were punching well above their weight, both physically and in terms of world ranking.

It took just two minutes for Canada to take the lead.  Arsenal’s Cloe Lacasse was sent clear on the right wing, beating her marker she drove into the box and hit her shot past Idalia Serrano – 1-0 and the worst possible start for El Salvador.

Canada were in well-organised control and creating chances. On six minutes Jordyn Huitema was pulled down outside the El Salvador box. Adriana Leon hit her free kick over the cross bar. Gabby Carle should have scored on 14 minutes, angling in from the left with just Serrano to beat.

At the other end Seren had her first chance, getting a shot off on the left of Canada’s goal, but gathered easily by Sabrina d’Angelo. It was El Salvador’s only real chance of the half.

For Canada the increasingly profligate Huitema headed over, but on 23’ minutes Huitema had a goal. A cross from the right byline by Lacasse – who was carving El Salvador’s left side open every time she received the ball – fell to Huitema who just managed to side foot the ball over the line.

Four minutes later Canada were 3-0 up. A breakaway saw Lacasse again feed Leon from the right who tapped in.

Canada eased off the gas to half time, the only concern for them being the replacement of an injured Nichelle Prince just before the break.

The second half began with a siege of the El Salvador penalty box. In the 58th minute they were awarded a penalty for a handball in the box. Leon doubled her tally for the night and Canada went 4-0 up.

Four minutes later Kadisha Buchanan put Canada 5-0 up, heading in from an Olivia Smith corner. Priestman rang the changes from the subs bench, Canada continued where they left off.

On 85’ the talented 19-year-old Smith, who had impressed with some nice touches since coming on as a sub, added a sixth, her first for Canada.

Canada could have added a few more but it was immaterial. The win was a useful opener for Priestman, allowing her to rotate players and for them to ease in to the rhythm of tournament play. They have harder days to come.

For El Salvador it was a tough but useful test against one of the world’s elite. They will only get stronger.

Canada face Costa Rica here on Sunday, while El Salvador face the physicality of Paraguay.

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