Christine Sinclair converted a penalty kick in the second minute of second-half stoppage time, giving host Canada a 1–0 win over China on Saturday in the opening match of the Women's World Cup.
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) —
Canada was awarded the penalty by Ukrainian referee Natalia Rachynska after
Attendance was announced at 53,058, setting a record for the largest crowd at a national team sporting event in Canada.
The event began with FIFA, soccer's international governing body, plagued by scandal. FIFA President
Sinclair's goal erased a frustrating match for Canada, which outshot the visitors 14-5.
Following the gala opening ceremony that included performances by Canadians Sarah McLachlan and Tegan and Sara, China came closest to scoring with a first-half free kick that bounced off both posts.
It was the first match of the month-long tournament that will be played across six Canadian cities. The United States opens Monday against Australia, and the final is set for July 5.
The pressure is on Canada, ranked eighth in the world and making their sixth World Cup appearance. Its best finish was fourth in 2003, and the Canadians were 0-3 at the 2011 tournament in Germany.
Canada has been on the rise in recent years under head coach John Herdman and has also seen increased support by the government in advance of the World Cup. The team had a surprising bronze-medal finish at the 2012 London Olympics.
Sixteenth-ranked China is returning to the expanded 24-nation World Cup after missing out in 2011, when the field was 16 teams. Known as the Steel Roses, China's best World Cup finish was second in 1999, when the team fell to the United States in the final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Sinclair had a chance in the eighth minute, but her strike sailed just wide and past the outstretched arms of China's goalkeeper.
Gu Yasha threatened Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who came far off her line to stop the attack in the 18th minute. China's Wang Lisi's incredible free kick just minutes later bounced between both posts — but never made it in the goal.
Sinclair got a couple of chances late in the match, including a shot off a pass from Sophie Schmidt that was scooped up by Wang Fei.
Group A also includes New Zealand and the Netherlands, who meet in the late match on Saturday.
Top-ranked Germany is among the favorites along with the second-ranked Americans and No. 3 France. Japan is the defending World Cup champion after beating the United States on penalty kicks in the 2011 final.