If there was an area of concern for the Canadian women’s national team heading into the Women’s World Cup four years ago, it was the team’s back line.
The group of eight defenders, while built around centre back Kadeisha Buchanan, then 19 and a World Cup debutant, was a largely veteran crowd. Robyn Gayle, Carmelina Moscato, Rhian Wilkinson and Emily Zurrer had been with the national team more than 10 years. Laura Sesselman was playing in her first World Cup, but she was 31.
But Sesselman, who had torn an ACL a year earlier and had little experience playing with Buchanan, struggled as the second centre back, and then-coach John Herdman eventually had to rely on striker Jose Belanger to serve as a fullback. With the Canadians scoring just four goals in five tournament games, their defenders couldn’t afford any mistakes. But hiccups in the back line occurred too often; Canada didn’t get past the quarter-finals.
This year’s group will have to avoid those hiccups. Canada is again scoring at a goal-a-game pace, with nine in nine games in the calendar year. The team has won by more than one goal just once. That doesn’t leave much margin for error on defence.
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But there is far more cohesion with the Canadian defence in France. Buchanan, now 23 and with 89 caps to her name, has spent the past four years developing a solid defensive partnership with 26-year-old Shelina Zadorksy. The two pair well together: Zadorsky is the louder, more communicative of the two and Buchanan does much of her talking with her world-class athleticism.
Zadorsky and Buchanan both appeared in 44 of the 56 matches Canada played between World Cups. They are generally flanked by fullbacks Allysha Chapman and Ashley Lawrence, a midfielder-turned-defender who has played with Buchanan since they were 9 years old.
“We’ve been working on our connection for quite some time now and we’ve gotten a lot of caps together,” Zadorsky said recently.
It’s part of what goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe calls “incredible partnerships.”
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“Everyone knows that when they step in front for a tackle that they’re going to have cover behind them so they’re free to go in with full effort and they don’t have to hesitate when going into full tackles,” Labbe said.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get there and … (have) confidence in each other,” Zadorsky said. “Everyone has to be comfortable on the ball. I think we’ve come a long way in that and it definitely helps our forwards get on the ball.”
Canada struggled to execute the final pass or shot in its World Cup opener against Cameroon on Monday, a 1-0 game that was decided by a Buchanan header. But it was another clean sheet for a team that has allowed just one goal in 2019. The Canadians will try to continue that success against New Zealand on Saturday.
“If we don’t concede we can’t lose, right?” Zadorsky said. “And we’re out here to win, so I think that’s our job first and foremost as a back five, and I think it’s credit to everyone who puts in a shift back there.”
Laura Armstrong is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @lauraarmy
Full credit to orginal post, courtesy of: https://www.thestar.com/sports/soccer/2019/06/14/canadians-confident-their-back-line-can-take-them-deep-into-the-world-cup.html