Canadian women bounce back from U.S. loss with 2-0 win over Brazil at SheBelieves Cup

NASHVILLE — Canada, rebounding from a flat performance in a loss to the United States, defeated Brazil 2-0 Sunday at the SheBelieves Cup.

The ongoing labour dispute with Canada Soccer clearly unsettled the sixth-ranked Canadian women in their opening 2-0 loss to the top-ranked U.S. on Thursday in Orlando. But the Olympic champions looked more far composed against No. 9 Brazil from the get-go, launching several early attacks.

Centre back Vanessa Gilles put Canada ahead in the 31st minute with a powerful header off a Jessie Fleming corner. Brazilian defender Lauren fell on the play. It was Gilles' third goal in 24 appearances for Canada.

Brazil came out with purpose after the break, putting Canada under pressure. But it was substitute Evelyne Viens who added to the Canadian lead in the 71st after Brazil failed to clear a Fleming free kick.

Substitute Christine Sinclair headed Fleming's delivery into the box and, after a pinball-like sequence involving several players in front of goal, Viens' shot deflected in off a Brazilian defender for her fourth goal in 16 senior appearances.

Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan made two key saves with 10 minutes remaining to preserve the lead.

The four-team tournament wraps up Wednesday in Frisco, Texas, where Canada — which sits second in the standings above Brazil on goal difference — faces Japan and the U.S. meets Brazil.

The U.S. defeated No. 11 Japan 1-0 in the earlier game Sunday at Geodis Park. Mallory Swanson, who scored both of the American goals in the win over Canada, accounted for the lone goal in the 45th minute.

Brazil edged Japan 1-0 in its Thursday opener.

All four teams are preparing for this summer's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The Canadians, who are playing under protest due to the labour impasse with their governing body, once again took the field for the anthems wearing purple T-shirts saying "Enough is Enough." The women also wore purple tape on their wrist, as did coach Bev Priestman, to symbolize gender equality.

In solidarity with Canada, England wore purple wristbands in their 2-1 win over Italy earlier Sunday at the Arnold Clark Cup in Coventry. The Lionesses said on social media the gesture was "to display their support for the Canadian WNT players and for gender equality."

The Canadian women are demanding the same preparation and backing ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia this summer as the men did before theirs in Qatar. Both the women's and men's teams want Canada Soccer to open its books and explain cuts to both programs in 2023 at a time when the sport is soaring back home.

The entire Canadian roster took part in the pre-game on-field photo rather than just the usual starting 11.

Priestman made two changes to her starting 11 with Simi Awujo and Jade Rose coming in for Sinclair and Jordyn Huitema. Fleming took over from Sinclair as captain while Quinn, who goes by one name, did not dress due to illness.

Adriana Leon started up front with the 19-year-old Awujo — earning her fifth cap in her first senior start --- tucked behind her. Ashley Lawrence moved up from fullback to play further forward on the flank with Janine Beckie on the other side.

Beckie earned her 100th cap for Canada. The 28-year-old Portland Thorn is one of the Canadian women's four team representatives — along with Sinclair, Quinn and Sophie Schmidt — and has been a leading voice in the labour dispute.

Brazilian star Marta, who turned 37 Sunday, came on in the 59th minute to earn cap No. 184.

Both teams had early chances with Brazilian 'keeper Lorena stopping a weak shot from Beckie, who was sent in by a well-flighted feed from Rose. Then, in the ninth minute, Ludmila sent a header right at Sheridan.

A powerful Leon shot bowled over Lorena in the 12th minute after the 'keeper got her left hand to the ball.

Sheridan had a couple of missteps distributing the ball in the first half, losing her footing on one occasion. Midway through the half, an errant back pass from Canadian centre back Kadeisha Buchanan caused a scare in almost a repeat of a goal conceded against the U.S.

Canada had 59 per cent of the possession in the first half.

Sinclair, earning her 321st cap, and Shelina Zadorsky came on to start the second half in place of Awujo and Gilles. Schmidt followed in the 52nd minute to collect her 219th cap.

Sheridan stopped Debinha in the 51st minute after a defensive breakdown. Four minutes later, Ludmilla came close after being put behind the Canadian defence, only to have Sheridan acrobatically poke the ball away with her foot.

Cloe Lacasse, Viens and Huitema entered the game at the hour mark, revamping the Canada attack.

Priestman is without the injured Nichelle Prince, Jayde Riviere, Deanne Rose and Desiree Scott at the tournament.

Brazil hosted a two-game series with Canada in November, with each team registering a 2-1 win. They were the first meetings between the two since Canada edged Brazil 4-3 in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics after the game ended 0-0.

Canada improved its all-time record against Brazil to 12-10-7.

Canada lost 2-0 to Brazil in its only other appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in 2021. The Canadians finished third that year, in Priestman's debut as coach.

Brazil is making its third appearance at the tournament, having finished second in 2021 and fourth in 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2023.

The Canadian Press