Canadian women defeat Morocco 4-0 in international soccer friendly in Spain

Canadian women defeat Morocco 4-0 in international soccer friendly in Spain
Canada's Jessie Fleming (17) celebrates scoring her side's opening goal against Jamaica during a CONCACAF Women's Championship soccer semifinal match in Monterrey, Mexico, Thursday, July 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Fernando

Evelyne Viens scored one goal and set up two others as Canada defeated Morocco 4-0 in an international women’s soccer friendly Monday.

Jessie Fleming, Janine Beckie and Clarissa Larisey had the other Canada goals at Estadio Municipal de Chapin.

Morocco, ranked 76th in the world, proved to be a stubborn opponent to break down. The seventh-ranked Canadians had 73 per cent possession in the first half but only managed three shots on target with Fleming providing the go-ahead goal in the 24th minute.

The Atlas Lionesses, headed to their first-ever World Cup, were runner-up to South Africa at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in July.

Canada downed No. 31 Argentina 2-0 on Friday in Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain, taking the lead on a 68th-minute Argentine own goal and 87th-minute strike by substitute Cloe Lacasse.

Morocco lost 4-0 to No. 32 Poland last Thursday in Seville, Spain.

The African side is coached by former French international Reynald Pedros, who twice led Olympique Lyonnais Feminin to the UEFA Women’s Champions League title and was named Best FIFA Women’s Coach in 2018.

Canada coach Bev Priestman made six changes to her starting lineup inserting goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, Desiree Scott, Jade Rose, Viens, Lacasse and Quinn, who goes by one name. The starting 11 came into the game with a combined 730 caps with 416 of those coming from Scott, Fleming and Kadeisha Buchanan.

Scott, earning her 184th cap, took over as captain from Fleming.

Canada was missing the injured Christine Sinclair, Ashley Lawrence, Vanessa Gilles, Deanne Rose, Gabrielle Carle and Jayde Riviere. Fullback Allysha Chapman was also out after suffering a lower-leg injury in the physical Argentina game.

Morocco hung back in an effective defensive block, looking to counter-attack. The Canadians had more of the ball but struggled to build on offence in a drab start to the contest.

That changed in the 24th minute when a poor clearance by Morocco goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi was intercepted by an opportunistic Viens, who found an onrushing Fleming in the penalty box. The Chelsea midfielder steamed past defender Nouhaila Benzina and beat Er-Rmichi for her 19th goal in 109 internationals.

Er-Rmichi made a fine save in the 40th minute, getting a leg in front of a close-range Lacasse shot after a neat pivot by the Canadian forward in front of goal before firing the shot.

Viens doubled the lead in the 54th minute, rising high to head the ball home for her third international goal. The play came off a Canada corner that was initially cleared but only as far as substitute Sophie Schmidt, who sent a fine cross back into the penalty box.

A minute later, Schmidt hit the crossbar with a header of her own off another corner. Er-Rmichi got a hand to a hard Prince shot from the edge of the penalty box in the 80th minute.

Priestman sent on Shelina Zadorsky, Nichelle Prince and Schmidt, earning her 216th cap, to start the second half. Quinn, who had been seemingly favouring an ankle, was one of the players replaced.

Simi Awujo, Larisey and Zoe Burns followed off the Canadian bench as the game wore on.

A long-range shot by Morocco, its lone effort on target, produced a diving save from D’Angelo in the 48th minute after a turnover by Schmidt.

Beckie made it 3-0 in the 84th after a fine feed from Schmidt. With no defender pressing, Beckie had time to choose her spot for her 36th goal in 98 appearances for Canada.

Larisey finished the scoring in the 90th minute, taking advantage of a fine through ball from Viens. An onrushing Er-Rmichi blocked the ball initially but it rebounded to Larisey who poked it home for her first Canada goal.

With their fourth straight win, the Olympic champion Canadians improved to 10-2-3 this year with the losses to the U.S., 1-0 in the CONCACAF W Championship final in July, and Spain, 1-0 in the Arnold Clark Cup in February.

The game came in the last international window before the Oct. 22 draw in Auckland for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Canada secured its World Cup qualification at the CONCACAF W Championship.

Morocco qualified after finishing runner-up to No. 54 South Africa in the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations. Reaching the semifinals there secured World Cup qualification.

Like Canada, it was missing key players including captain Ghizlane Chebbak and Tottenham striker Rosella Ayana, both injured.

The Atlas Lionesses dispatched 11-time champion Nigeria, the top-ranked team in the region at No. 46, in a 5-4 penalty shootout win in the Cup of Nations semifinal to earn World Cup qualification.

Canada had faced Morocco twice before, with both games in February 2001 while in camp in the Moroccan capital of Rabat. Canada won the opener 4-0 and lost the rematch 1-0 two days later.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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