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Canada settles for draw with Czech Republic in friendly

Last Updated Jun 11, 2021 at 11:45 am MDT

Canada's Ashley Lawrence runs for the ball during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Rui Vieira/AP)

CARTAGENA, Spain — Canada had its chances but had to settle with a 0-0 draw with the Czech Republic in a women’s soccer friendly Friday.

The Canadian women dominated possession but were unable to breach a crowded, determined Czech defence. At the other end of the pitch, it was a quiet day at the office for Canadian ‘keeper Stephanie Labbe.

The eighth-ranked Canadians built up play nicely but lacked the final pass or shot. The chances mounted as the second half wore on, with Deanne Rose, with a defender trying to slide in front of her, just missing an open corner of the goal in the 84th minute after Ashley Lawrence raked a low cross across the penalty box.

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Jessie Fleming’s free-kick outside the penalty box in stoppage time hit the Czech wall.

The game, the first-ever meeting with the 27th-ranked Czechs, was part of the Canadians’ preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.

Canada takes on No. 7 Brazil on Monday, also at an empty Estadio Cartagonova. Coach Bev Priestman has said she expects to name her 18-woman Olympic roster, plus four alternates, within 10 days of the Brazil match.

Canada opens the Tokyo Olympics on July 21 against host Japan before facing Chile and Britain.

Priestman fielded a starting 11 that came into the match with a combined 1,035 caps. Captain Christine Sinclair made her 298th appearance for Canada.

There was a start for Adriana Leon, looking to make the Olympic roster after undergoing foot surgery in the wake of the SheBelieves Cup in February. The West Ham forward looked as good as new before giving way in the 57th minute.

Star centre back Kadeisha Buchanan was paired with Vanessa Gilles, rather than her normal partner Shelina Zadorsky. It was Buchanan’s first appearance in Canadian colours since March 2020. Pandemic-related travel restrictions and medical reasons kept her out of Canada’s previous five games since then.

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There were also starts for 20-year-old Jayde Riviere and 22-year-old Gabrielle Carle at fullback. Manchester City forward Janine Beckie was unavailable after suffering an injury in training.

“Disappointed to miss out on these two fixtures due to injury but looking forward to being back on the pitch soon with the team,” Beckie said on social media.

A Canada Soccer spokeswoman declined to detail the injury but said “for now she is not in doubt for the Olympics.” Beckie was seen on the sidelines in uniform.

Barbora Votikova started in goal for the Czechs. The Slavia Prague ‘keeper is something of an internet sensation with 474,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, which features mostly comic sketches.

It was 27 degrees Celsius at the 5 p.m. local time kickoff.

While the Canadians had more of the early possession, they failed to turn that advantage into scoring chances as the Czechs defended in numbers. The Czechs, meanwhile, had trouble moving the ball in the face of Canadian pressure.

The Czechs had an excellent opportunity in the 14th minute, when a free kick deflected off a Canadian player to Franny Cerna. She had a clear look at the Canadian goal from just inside the penalty box but sent her shot wide.

Gilles, a force in the air, had a chance in the 30th minute when the Czechs could not clear a corner but her header bounced off a defender. Canada’s Nichelle Prince shot high in the 38th minute.

Jordyn Huitema came on for Prince at halftime. Rose, Julia Grosso, Evelyne Viens and Bianca St-Georges followed later in the half. It marked the first senior cap for the 23-year-old St-Georges.

A fine through ball from Sophie Schmidt put Sinclair in alone early in the second half but the play was ruled offside. Huitema’s header off a Lawrence cross flashed wide in the 58th.

Sinclair came off in the 65th minute, giving way to Viens, after some good setup work in the game.

Huitema’s diving header off a St-Georges feed was wide in the 82nd minute. Buchanan had two chances from close range on the corners that followed, with a shot bouncing off a Czech defender and a header going straight to the ‘keeper.

Canada came into the match with a 3-2-0 record in 2021. The Czechs were coming off an April penalty shootout loss to No. 20 Switzerland in a UEFA Women’s Championship qualifying playoff.

The Canadian players wore orange wristbands during the anthems as a memorial to the 215 children found buried at the Kamloops Residential School. The Canadian jerseys had rainbow-coloured numbers to honour Pride Month.