Goals by Janine Beckie and Ashley Lawrence lifted Canada to a 2-0 victory over Japan and into fifth place at the 12-team Algarve Cup on Wednesday.
The Canadian women, playing their first tournament under new head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller, are ranked fifth in the world. Japan, runner-up at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, is ninth.
“I was definitely very happy with this performance,” said Heiner-Moller, who was elevated from assistant coach in January when John Herdman moved to take over Canada’s men’s program. “I think it’s been a tournament where we’ve been growing into matches after a very rusty start [a 3-1 loss to Sweden). But today was definitely the best performance of this tournament.
“Two beautiful goals and a couple of good [scoring] chances as well.,” he said. “Against Japan, a very very good Japan, winning 2-0, that’s very encouraging for this team.”
Beckie, raising her career total to 22 goals in 41 international appearances, scored in the 20th minute. Her initial shot, from just inside the far corner of the penalty box, hit a defender but bounced straight back to her. The 23-year-old Sky Blue FC striker made no mistake the second time, firing a right-footed shot into the top right corner.
The 22-year-old Lawrence made it 2-0 in the 50th minute with a superb solo effort, taking the ball off a defender at the edge of the box and then dribbling past another defender and the goalkeeper before slipping the ball into the open net as she lost her balance.
The goal came in Lawrence’s 60th appearance for Canada.
Stephanie Labbe saved a penalty in stoppage time.
Canada, second to Sweden in Group B with a 2-1-0 record, was consigned to the fifth-place game after finishing as the second-best runner-up behind Portugal (2-0-1).
The championship game between No. 10 Sweden, the Olympic silver medallist which defeated Rio bronze medallist Canada in their opening game, and seventh-ranked Netherlands was cancelled due to heavy rain. Both teams were awarded first place.
Portugal, ranked 38th, upset No. 4 Australia for third place in a 2-1 win.
The Canadian women return to Europe to play No. 6 France on April 9 in Rennes, one of the 2019 Women’s World Cup venues. Canada will host second-ranked Germany in Hamilton on June 10.