Sinclair gives Canada victory over China
EDMONTON, Alberta — With the sellout crowd roaring, Christine Sinclair sprinted across the field and into the outstretched arms of coach John Herdman.
Sinclair had just 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.
After the celebratory hug, Herdman turned to the crowd and leapt into the air, pumping his fist.
Canada's star striker and team captain had made her country proud.
"The first thing that went through my head was 'I'm taking this.' I've been practicing my whole life for that moment," said Sinclair, who turns 32 next week. "The next thing through my head was 'Man, the fans are very loud right now.'"
Canada was awarded the penalty by Ukrainian referee Natalia Rachynska after Adriana Leon was fouled by Rong Zhao. The sellout crowd of 53,058 at Commonwealth Stadium, the largest for a national team sporting ever in Canada, was on its feet when Sinclair's shot sailed just inside the post and past goalkeeper Wang Fei.
It was the first match of the month-long tournament played across six Canadian cities. The United States opens Monday against Australia, and the final is set for July 5.
The World Cup began with FIFA, soccer's international governing body, plagued by scandal. FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced his resignation earlier this week after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 people on corruption charges related to soccer. No FIFA officials participated in the opening ceremony.
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 had come closest to scoring with a first-half free kick that bounced off both posts.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. Of course, it's the opening game of the World Cup in front of 50-some-odd-thousand fans with the game on the line," Sinclair said. "Yeah, it's nerve-racking, but I live for those moments."
The pressure is on Canada, ranked eighth in the world and making its sixth World Cup appearance. Its best finish was fourth in 2003, and the Canadians were 0-3 at the 2011 tournament in Germany.
NETHERLANDS 1, NEW ZEALAND 0: At Edmonton, Alberta, Lieke Martens' long strike from outside the box in the first half gave the Netherlands its first ever Women's World Cup goal and a victory over New Zealand.
Martens curled the ball up and over the outstretched arms of New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler in the 33rd minute. Netherlands is one of eight teams making their debut in the World Cup.
The field for World Cup expanded this year to 24 teams, divided into six groups. Saturday was the start of the monthlong tournament, which concludes with the final in Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5.
Earlier in the day, host Canada opened the tournament with a 1-0 victory over China at Commonwealth Stadium. The Netherlands faces China on Thursday, followed by Canada's match against New Zealand as the group stage continues.