Canada goes into the Women’s World Cup unbeaten this year and having conceded just one goal in eight matches after a 0-0 draw with Spain in its final tournament warm-up match Friday.
The fifth-ranked Canadian women came on as the match progressed, but lacked the final touch. The 13th-ranked Spaniards, who have one final tune-up match against Japan, did little to trouble Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe at Estadio Las Gaunas.
“It was one of these matches of few chances. We got the better ones, though,” said Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller.
The teams had met just once before, with Spain winning 1-0 in the 2017 Algarve Cup final.
After the match Heiner-Moller had his players gather in a huddle, telling them: “Now this is extra time.” The Canadian women then played a short mini-scrimmage.
“No injuries, a lot of great experience and confidence in defending,” said Heiner-Moller. “We know we need to fine-tune a couple of things but the resilience of seeing a group of players play two 45-minute halfs and then two-times-10 (-minute scrimmages) is pretty amazing.”
Canada’s World Cup campaign opens June 10 against No. 46 Cameroon in Montpellier before facing No. 19 New Zealand on June 15 in Grenoble and the eighth-ranked Netherlands on June 20 in Reims.
Spain, which won all eight of its World Cup qualifying matches, is in a group with No. 2 Germany, No 16 China and No. 49 South Africa.
The draw means Canada will go into the World Cup with a 5-0-3 record in 2019, outscoring its opposition 7-1. Canada’s last loss was a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the top-ranked United States in the final of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship last October.
The Canadian women headed to Europe on the heels of a 3-0 win over Mexico on May 18 at Toronto’s BMO Field.
Heiner-Moller fielded what looks to be his preferred starting 11 for the tournament with Labbe behind Allysha Chapman, Shelina Zadorsky, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Jessie Fleming, Nichelle Prince, Janine Beckie and captain Christine Sinclair.
The Canadian starting 11 totalled 1,120 caps. Prince, who earned her 50th cap on the day, was the least experienced player.
The Canadians started with a back three flanked by wingbacks, but changed to a back four early in the match in order to get more pressure on the Spaniards.
There were few chances in an even half. Spain came closest with a carefully calculated long-distance shot by Virginia Torrecilla from just inside the Canadian half of the midfield circle in the 26th minute. The shot had Labbe backpeddling and then leaping with a protective hand held high, but the speculative shot went just over the Canadian crossbar.
Schmidt had put a looping shot from outside the penalty box on target a minute earlier, but it went straight at Spanish ‘keeper Lola Gallardo.
Teenage striker Jordyn Huitema came on for Beckie to start the second half. The Canadians had a strong start after the break with Schmidt almost finding Prince with a through ball early on.
Huitema shot just wide in the 57th minute after a deft lay-off from Sinclair off a throw-in deep in the Spanish end. Sinclair, off a Lawrence cross, then sent a header right at Gallardo in the 62nd minute.
Rebecca Quinn, Jayde Riviere and Adriana Leon came on for Schmidt, Chapman and Prince in the 70th minute.
Leon had a chance in the 82nd minute when Lawrence found her in the penalty box, but a sliding Spanish defender blocked her shot.