Matildas slump to Canada loss in Sinclair’s farewell

Anna Harrington |

The Matildas have ended a successful 2023 with another defeat to Canada, beaten 1-0 in Vancouver.
The Matildas have ended a successful 2023 with another defeat to Canada, beaten 1-0 in Vancouver.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has called for perspective after a bumper 2023 ended on the sour note of a lethargic 1-0 away loss to Canada in retiring legend Christine Sinclair’s final international match.

Four days after an experimental line-up was thumped 5-0, Quinn’s header in the 40th minute, after poor defending at a corner, brought a near-full strength Australia undone.

Ten of the 11 players started Australia’s rampant 4-0 Women’s World Cup win over Canada, with Teagan Micah replacing injured goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold.

Sam Kerr (foot) and Arnold (arm) were ruled out of the friendlies, Australia’s final games before February’s Olympic qualifiers against Uzbekistan.

The Matildas had just six shots and none on target to Canada’s 12 (four on target) in a tired performance.

Christine Sinclair beats Clare Hunt to a header.
Retiring Canadian legend Christine Sinclair wins a header over Australia’s Clare Hunt. (AP PHOTO)

Stand-in skipper Steph Catley described the game as a “bit of a low” to end a year when Australia reached the semi-finals of their home World Cup.

“We need to put things in a little bit of perspective,” Gustavsson said.

“It’s the end of ’23. A massive year for us. Tremendous World Cup.

“… October qualifiers was fantastic  – the way we played, the way the players played and then we said ‘let’s use a development window here.’

“We can’t get carried away because the development window (had) two losses.

“We have important qualifiers coming up in February and I think there’s teams right now that are hurting more than us like an England and Sweden that are missing out on (qualifying for) the Olympics.

“This was two friendlies and we need to put that in perspective.”

When asked if he would be at the helm in February, Gustavsson quipped: “Yeah, for sure. I mean – well, if I’m allowed to”, then stressed links to the Sweden men’s job were speculation.

“When you do good things like the Matildas have done, there’s always going to be speculations out there,” he said. 

“And for me, I’m just focusing on the job I have.

“I’m focusing on the Matildas and this preparation window has been massive for us and I’ve had full commitment every single minute and so has the players and this was a very, very good window for us, and I learned a lot.” 

Christine Sinclair.
Christine Sinclair walks onto the field for the final time in Canada colours with her nieces. (AP PHOTO)

Canada Soccer put on an emotional pre-game ceremony for Sinclair, who was retiring alongside long-time teammate Sophie Schmidt, in front of 48,112 fans at BC Place, temporarily renamed Christine Sinclair Place.

Sinclair, 40, scored a record 190 international goals, more than anyone in the women’s and men’s games, won an Olympic gold medal and appeared at six World Cups.

The Matildas started brightly but their early energy dropped off and they conceded when Sinclair flicked-on Jessie Fleming’s corner towards Kadeisha Buchanan.

The defender’s shot hit the bar, but Quinn reacted quickest to head home.

Canada had the ball in the back of the net again in the 43rd minute through Vanessa Gilles but she was ruled to have fouled Micah.

Sinclair departed the field for the final time in the 58th minute, handing the captain’s armband over to her replacement in Schmidt.

Tameka Yallop, Gustavsson’s only substitute used, spurned a golden opportunity to equalise in the 76th.

Mary Fowler slipped through Yallop, who took a lovely touch but couldn’t keep her shot down, capping off a difficult night.

Gustavsson said he had deliberately limited changes to replicate the conditions his starting line-up could have to deal with when playing tired in major tournaments.