HAMILTON — Sophie Schmidt scored a highlight-reel goal midway through the first half to send Canada into the Women’s World Cup on a winning note with a 1-0 victory over England in a friendly Friday.
The goal, on artificial turf before 23,197 at Tim Hortons Field, came after a slow start for the Canadians, who grew in confidence as the game wore on. Canada strung passes together and looked more creative in trying to open up the visitors.
England is ranked sixth in the world, two places above Canada.
The Canadian women head to Edmonton on Tuesday in advance of their June 6 World Cup opener against China in Group A, which also features New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Schmidt scored the game’s lone goal in the 24th minute, sweeping in a feed from makeshift fullback Josee Belanger with a right-footed one-timer on the edge of the penalty box. Her 16th goal for Canada was a beauty.
She came close on several other occasions, on a free kick in the first half and a close-range shot early in the second after a twisting run through the penalty box. She also threatened in the 78th minute when, all but wearing an English defender, she poked the ball wide.
Schmidt, making her 132nd Canada appearance, tied Andrea Neil and Brittany Timko for fourth on the all-time Canadian list.
Fullback Allysha Chapman also excelled for Canada, motoring up and down the left flank. The Canadian defence blunted the visitors with forwards coming back to help the cause.
The visitors resorted to some tough defence in the second half, flattening more than a few Canadians.
England’s Fara Williams hit the crossbar with a long-range chip/shot in the dying minutes.
England has had the best of Canada recently, coming into Friday’s game riding a four-game win streak against the Canadians. Last time out, England defeated Canada 1-0 in the March final of the Cyprus Cup on a 67th-minute goal by Lianne Sanderson.
Canada named local girl Melissa Tancredi captain on the occasion of her 100th cap. Christine Sinclair normally wears the armband.
Tancredi came close in the seventh minute, just failing to get her head on an Ashley Lawrence cross.
England had chances early with captain Steph Houghton floating a free kick from outside the box just high in the 18th. Two minutes later, Canada ‘keeper Erin McLeod had to push aside a Houghton shot off a corner.
Both teams turned to their bench after the two-thirds mark.
Playing out of Moncton in Group F, England meets France on June 9 and Mexico on 13 June before heading to Montreal to take on Colombia on June 17.
Canada fielded a strong team with the opening 11 featuring nine starters from the March Cyprus Cup final. Only Rhian Wilkinson (hamstring) and Rebecca Quinn (not part of the World Cup team) were missing.
In the absence of Wilkinson and Marie-Eve Nault, recovering from a minor knock, John Herdman played forward Belanger at right fullback as he did in a training match earlier in the week against Nigeria.
England coach Mark Sampson opted for a near-to-full strength lineup.
It marked the first time a Canadian national team has played in Hamilton since April 25, 1987, when the Olympic men’s side beat Bermuda in a Pan American Games qualifying game at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Friday’s game was shown live by the BBC in England, where kickoff was midnight local time.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press