Canada, Dutch win openers but fans the big winners

Sun Jun 7, 2015 1:02am EDT
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By Steve Keating

EDMONTON (Reuters) - Canada scored a heart-stopping injury time win over China to kick off the Women's World Cup on Saturday as the spotlight returned to action on the field after a deflating week of scandal away from the pitch.

Christine Sinclair sent a capacity crowd at a sun-kissed Commonwealth Stadium home happy by slotting the winning spot kick in a 1-0 victory over China.

The Dutch were also celebrating after the Netherlands made a winning World Cup debut with a 1-0 victory over New Zealand.

But the biggest winners on the day were the fans who basked in the excitement and joy the 'beautiful game' can create rather than dwell on the dreary details of a corruption bribery scandal that has engulfed the sport’s governing body, FIFA.

"It was an amazing atmosphere to kick off this World Cup in front of 50,000-plus fans, I'm so proud of our team," said Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who was named player of the match. "There was never a doubt that game was going to get away from us."

While the World Cup got off to a rousing start, it is unclear if the scandals and controversy have had an impact on the tournament that will conclude with a championship game on July 5 in Vancouver.

The Canadian Soccer Association announced that close to a million tickets had been sold for games at the six venues across the country and while it remains an impressive number, it falls well short of the 1.5 million organizers have targeted.

The biggest event in women's sport, the World Cup was far from the only show in town.   Continued...

Jun 6, 2015; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod (1) celebrates after defeating China 1-0 in a Group A soccer match in the 2015 women's World Cup at Commonwealth Stadium. Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports