England Women’s final World Cup warm-up match ended in a narrow defeat by host nation Canada.
Sophie Schmidt grabbed the only goal of the game midway through the first half, bending a shot into the top corner from 18 yards.
Lionesses midfielder Fara Williams hit the bar late on with an audacious effort from range but Mark Sampson’s side were unable to find an equaliser.
Canada 1-0 England
A Women's International
Friday 29 May
Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, Ontario
Before the game Sampson said he was realistic in terms of his side’s chances against the World Cup hosts, given that England only arrived in Canada on Monday night and are still adjusting to the 5-hour time difference.
Although they lost the game, this match gave 16 players a run out on an artificial pitch, the surface that will be used at the World Cup, and they got to experience playing in front of large partisan crowd – two of Sampson’s stated aims.
England now have 11 days until their Group F opener, against France in Moncton on Tuesday 9 June.
Captain Steph Houghton made her first England appearance since injuring her knee against Australia at the Cyprus Cup in March.
Also returning to the team was right-back Lucy Bronze following her own lengthy spell on the sidelines. The Manchester City defender pulled on the Three Lions shirt for the first time since the historic match against Germany at Wembley in November.
England and Canada have met five times since March 2011 and one goal separated the sides on three of those occasions – including in the Lionesses’ recent victory in the Cyprus Cup final.
Neither team were able to seize the initiative in the opening exchanges and it appeared destined for another close encounter.
The half chances that did come early on were created by the visitors.
Jill Scott skewed a shot high and wide inside the opening two minutes following a neat exchange by Claire Rafferty and Karen Carney, and Houghton then bent a 20-yard free-kick just over the top of Erin McLeod’s bar.
Scott headed Carney’s corner into McLeod’s hands before Canada broke the deadlock shortly after.
The hosts’ right wing-back, Josee Belanger, advanced down her flank and pulled a ball across to the edge of the box where Schmidt was on-hand to curl a right-footed shot into the top left corner of Karen Bardsley’s goal.
The goalscorer came close to doubling her tally soon after, but her free-kick out on the right was just too high and dropped onto the roof of the net.
The 23,197 spectators inside the Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton set a new world record at half-time for the most simultaneous high fives, in aid of UNICEF.
And Bardsley had to be useful with her hands soon after the restart to deny Schmidt a second goal. The midfielder tried her luck with an angled drive but the Manchester City stopper parried the shot away at her near post.
England had to weather a spell of Canadian pressure early in the second half after they were penned in their own box, but they held firm and cleared their lines – although centre back Casey Stoney required some good fortune when her sliced clearance flew over the crossbar.
Schmidt, who is without a club, was hell-bent on doubling her’s and her team’s tally, but the next time she threatened, substitute Alex Greenwood, on for Rafferty, got back well to pressure the goalscorer and deny her a clean strike.
Sampson introduced Eniola Aluko, England’s top scorer in World Cup qualifying, and Fran Kirby from the bench in search of an equaliser. It almost arrived courtesy of Williams, England’s most capped player of all time.
The Liverpool playmaker picked up the ball on the inside right channel and attempted to chip McLeod from 30 yards, but her effort cannoned back off the bar.
Canada will open the World Cup against China in Edmonton on Saturday 6 June.
Canada: 1 Erin McLeod, 3 Kadeisha Buchanan, 9 Josee Belanger, 10 Lauren Sesselmann, 11 Desiree Scott, 12 Christine Sinclair, 13 Sophie Schmidt, 14 Melissa Tancredi (C), 15 Alysha Chapman, 19 Adrianna Leon, 22 Ashley Lawrence.
Substitutes: 4 Carmelina Moscato for Sesselmann 67, 17 Jessie Fleming for Leon 77, 6 Kaylyn Kyle for Lawrence 77
Substitutes not used: 2 Emily Zurrer, 5 Robyn Gayle, 7 Rhian Wilkinson, 8 Diana Matheson, 16 Jonelle Filigno, 18 Selenia Iacchelli, 20 Marie-Eve Nault, 21 Stephanie Labbe, 23 Karina LeBlanc.
Goals: Schmidt 23
Head coach: John Herdman
England (4-4-2): 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); 12 Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), 5 Steph Houghton (C; Manchester City), 15 Casey Stoney (Arsenal), 3 Claire Rafferty (Chelsea); 18 Toni Duggan (Manchester City), 8 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 16 Katie Chapman (Chelsea), 10 Karen Carney (Birmingham City); 20 Lianne Sanderson (Arsenal), 23 Ellen White (Notts County).
Substitutes: 4 Fara Williams (Liverpool) for White 61, 9 Eniola Aluko (Chelsea) for Sanderson 61, 14 Alex Greenwood (Notts County) for Rafferty 61, 22 Fran Kirby (Reading) for Chapman 73, 11 Jade Moore (Birmingham City) for Carney 83
Substitutes not used: 2 Alex Scott (Arsenal), 6 Laura Bassett (Notts County), 7 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), 13 Siobhan Chamberlain (Arsenal), 17 Jo Potter (Birmingham City), 19 Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns), 21 Carly Telford (Notts County).
Head coach: Mark Sampson