Canada tops New Zealand, qualify for round of 16

Jessie Fleming and Nichelle Prince scored second-half goals as Canada moved into the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup with a 2-0 win over New Zealand on Saturday.

As in the opening 1-0 win over No. 46 Cameroon, goals proved hard to come by initially for the fifth-ranked Canadians despite dominating play.

The breakthrough came in the 48th minute. A probing long ball found Prince down the left flank and the speedy forward outraced two defenders before squaring the ball for the 21-year-old Fleming to slot in her ninth goal in 68 appearances — and first at the World Cup.

Captain Christine Sinclair almost made it 2-0 soon after, but her redirect from in front went high. And Sinclair set up the 24-year-old Prince in the 72nd minute, only to have her header acrobatically steered away by goalkeeper Erin Nayler in a marvellous one-handed save.

Prince made it 2-0 in the 79th minute, poking a rebound home from close-range after Sinclair’s header hit the goalpost for the second time in the game. It was Prince’s 11th goal for Canada and first at a World Cup.

Canada is now unbeaten in 10 games in 2019 (7-0-3) in 2019, tied for its second-longest such streak. For New Zealand, in its fifth World Cup, the wait for a first tournament win continues.

The Canadians controlled the first half, essentially playing keepaway with the 19th-ranked New Zealand. But 73 percent possession in the first 45 minutes created just one good scoring chance as Canada outshot the Football Ferns 8-1 (2-0 in shots on target).

The Canadian women have never before opened the World Cup with two straight wins. And they had never beaten a confederation champion (New Zealand is the big fish among the Oceania minnows) at the tournament.

The Canadians now head 600 kilometres north to Reims, where they will face the eighth-ranked Netherlands on Thursday at Stade Auguste-Delaune to decide who tops Group E