Soccer friendly turns ugly

Canada's Sophie Schmidt (left) battles Brazil's Formiga during a friendly match at BMO Field on...

Canada's Sophie Schmidt (left) battles Brazil's Formiga during a friendly match at BMO Field on Thursday. SUN MEDIA/Dave Thomas

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

Canada and Brazil were supposed to meet in what soccer quaintly calls a "friendly" last night.

Someone forgot to tell the players.

The Canadian women's national team and Brazil tied 1-1 during a night of head banging, bloodied faces, bruised shins and hurt feelings.

The Canadians promised to be physical after absorbing a 7-0 drubbing to this same team last year at the Pan Am Games and they arrived in a bellicose mood.

Emily Zurrer played a strong physical game at the back end. Claire Rustad left Renata Costa whining at midfield. A lot of things were going bump in the night.

Of course, as is the custom of many teams that feature players with only one name, the Brazilians also seemed to fall over at the merest hint of a stiff breeze off Lake Ontario.

The game had 31 fouls, including 19 by Canada. But the Brazilians could dish it, too.

Canada's Melissa Tancredi had to leave the game after getting her nose rearranged in a collision in the second half.

"We're just competitive. We want to win, especially against Brazil," said Christine Sinclair, who scored her 92nd career international goal. "They're not the cleanest team out there. Then, neither are we."

This is the final tuneup game for Canada before it departs for Beijing and it was welcomed by a small-but-enthusiastic crowd.

"The first half was a bit dull but the speed picked up in the second half and the crowd got into it," Canadian coach Even Pellerud said. "It was a good test match ... not the most exciting performance."

After a scoreless first half, Tancredi got run over by a Mac truck disguised in blue and gold in the 52nd minute. On the free kick, the ball arced high into the penalty area where Rustad settled it down and Sinclair blasted a shot inside the post.

Tancredi retired with a towel to stem the bleeding. About 15 minutes later, Sinclair took a crossing pass inside the penalty area but her shot went right into the belly of the charging keeper and everyone went down in a heap. Insults were exchanged and there were birds being flipped -- and we're not talking about the seagulls that frequent BMO stadium.

About then the attendance was announced as 15,551 but the entire upper deck on the west side was empty and the east deck was about half full. Maybe they were counting the seagulls, too.

Speaking of the fans, this was also as much about who didn't play as who did. In their previous meeting, 2007 FIFA player of the year, Marta, scored five goals. She is the women's answer to one-name wonders such as Ronaldinho and Ronaldo. Last night, a lot of fans had another name for her but this being a family newspaper none shall be repeated. Marta was a no-show.

The official explanation is that her club team, Sweden's Umea IK, wouldn't release her because the game was just a friendly. Organizers, who had been selling tickets to fans on the basis of a Marta vs. Sinclair scenario said they weren't aware of the situation until Wednesday. Even then, there wasn't Word One until the lineup sheets were passed out prior to the game.

"The club teams free up players for the Olympics and we have to respect their commitments too. And, that's why (Marta's) not here, Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos said.

Maybe. But, anyone thinking they were buying tickets to see one of the legends of the women's game will have every right to feel cheated.

It's difficult to believe that nobody was aware that Marta wouldn't be on the roster for this game, making it rather ironic that when the teams walked onto the field they were led out by a huge banner reading: My Game Is Fair Play.

Brazil tied it in the 81st minute when a crossing pass bounced past a couple of Canuck defenders. Goalie Erin McLeod made a sliding stop but the rebound went to Raquel, who punched it in with her heel; her back to the open net.

"First, we failed to clear the ball which we should have. Secondly," said Pellerud, "when the pass came in she was offside ... but no complaints."

Some of the fans who came to see Marta might not have been so generous with their opinions.


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