Hooper sparks Canadian win

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Charmaine Hooper has done plenty for her country at the international level, but never had experienced a victory against Italy.

Hooper and the Canadian women's soccer team accomplished that last night, taking a 2-1 victory against the visitors in a friendly before a capacity crowd of 4,325 at Centennial Stadium in Etobicoke.

129 CAPS

Fittingly, it was Hooper who scored the deciding goal in Canada's first win against Italy in women's play. No woman is close to the 38-year-old Ottawa native's 129 caps for Canada.

"If we can win these games it's important, because confidence goes a long way, even if you don't (always) have the talent to match," said Hooper, who scored her 68th goal, also a women's record. "It was a good result and a good performance."

Canada, which had a draw and three losses in four previous games versus Italy, is ranked No. 11 in the world. Italy is No. 10.

Canada has embarked on an intense schedule before World Cup qualifying starts in November. But it will have to do so without one its star players, Kara Lang of Oakville. With 53 caps and 23 goals on her resume, the 19-year-old suffered a major setback 10 days ago when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a training session in B.C. She will have surgery in mid-July and will be out of action anywhere from six to 12 months.

"It's probably the most disappointing thing that has happened to me," Lang said.

Canada coach Even Pellerud is confident he will have proper replacements for Lang in the coming months. Pellerud was relatively satisfied with what he watched last night, as Canada stunned Italy with goals in the first and second minutes (the first an own goal by an Italian defender after a cross by Rhian Wilkinson) to go up 2-0.

Though there was a lull on Canada's part later in the first half -- Italy scored its lone goal on a penalty kick in the 32nd minute -- Canada took it Italy in the second half, outshooting the Italians 11-2.

Canada's next game is a friendly on July 18 against Sweden in Minnesota.


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