Coach Bev Priestman knew a flat performance in a 2-0 loss to the United States in Canada’s opener at the SheBelieves Cup didn’t define her team, whose attention has been divided due to an ongoing labor dispute with Canada Soccer.
On Sunday, the sixth-ranked Canadian women proved her right with a 2-0 victory over No. 9-ranked Brazil in Nashville.
“I’m really proud of the group, for what they’ve come through, to bounce back,” Priestman said after the match. “We said today we had to climb, we had to keep moving forward. And we did that.
“To keep a clean sheet against a hard team to beat, two set-play goals, some young faces on the pitch that I thought did outstanding. So overall, I’m really pleased. And it’s nice to see the group smile. A win helps. And we keep moving forward.”
The labor strife clearly unsettled the Canadian women in their loss to the top-ranked U.S. on Thursday in Orlando, a performance Priestman termed “uncharacteristic.” But the Olympic champions looked far more composed versus 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’s 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.
“As always it was a very tough game versus Canada. A very good team,” said Brazil coach Pia Sundhage, who rued the number of fouls her team committed and the way it defended the ensuing set plays.
“We know what we have to work on,” she added.
The four-team tournament wraps up Wednesday in Frisco, Texas, where Canada — which sits second in the standings above Brazil on goal difference — faces No. 11 Japan and the U.S. meets Brazil.
The U.S. defeated Japan 1-0 in the earlier match 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.