Despite rib injury, Canada keeper Labbé ‘optimistic’ about making next start vs. Chile

Canadian keeper Stephanie Labbé is questionable for Saturday’s game against Chile after suffering a rib joint injury during her heroic performance against Japan.

On Friday in Tokyo, the 34-year-old told CBC Sports’ Kelly VanderBeek she was “optimistic” about making her next start.

Labbé was hurt challenging an opposing attacker early in the second half of Canada’s 1-1 draw with the favoured host nation, but stayed to stop an ensuing penalty before ultimately exiting the pitch.

If Labbé can’t go, her replacement would be Kailen Sheridan, a 24-year-old who won the National Women’s Soccer League’s top goalkeeper at the 2020 Challenge Cup and was nominated for top player of the 2021 season at the ESPYs.

In a short tournament like the Olympics, taking care of business in games you’re supposed to win is essential. Canada now faces that scenario when it takes on 37th-ranked Chile at 3:30 a.m. ET on Saturday.

The eighth-ranked Canadians’ draw against Japan was a positive result that felt disappointing when the Japanese tied the match in the 84th minute.

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“To me it looked like the opening game got the better of them at times,” head coach Bev Priestman said of her team. “We just have to keep believing and really get that three points out of the next game.”

WATCH | Labbé stops penalty, exits injured:

Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé is injured in a collision but is called for penalty. Labbé makes the save on Mina Tanaka then is substituted out of the game for Kailen Sheridan. 3:02

Canada managed just one shot on target against Japan, an early goal off the boot of captain Christine Sinclair. It was the 187th goal of her decorated international career and came in her 300th game.

Against Chile, playing in its first Olympic women’s soccer tournament, the rest of Canada’s offensive attack must break out of the seemingly timid shell it showed in its first game.

Scoring has proven a persistent issue of late for the back-to-back Olympic bronze medallists, whose motto has been to “change the colour” in Tokyo.

Final game against Great Britain

Topping Chile would put Canada in a strong position heading into the final game of the group stage against Great Britain, an Olympics-only team made up of players from the United Kingdom.

The top two teams from each of the three Olympic groups make the knockout stage, with two more wild cards in the mix.

Should it take care of business against Chile, Canada’s game against Great Britain could determine the group winner — a key seeding distinction that could help one side avoid a powerhouse like the U.S. until later in the tournament.

In the first game for both, Chile fell 2-0 to Great Britain, who square off against Japan on Saturday at 6:30 a.m. ET.

WATCH | Canada settles for draw against Japan:

Christine Sinclair opened the scoring early in the match, but Japan broke through late as the two countries played to a 1-1 draw in their Olympic opener. 9:42

In Chile, Canada meets a team on the rise.

Just five years ago, Chile had fallen off FIFA’s world rankings due to inactivity. But a locally driven approach behind a new coach rejuvenated the program, which recently reached its first World Cup and placed second at the 2018 Copa America.

Chile’s top player is keeper Christine Endler, who recently signed with Lyon in France. Endler helped guide a draw against No. 2 Germany in June.

Her presence makes it even more essential that Canada produces more of an offensive attack.

Late in the match against Japan, substitutes Adriana Leon and Deanne Rose seemed to provide a spark for Canada. Priestman could turn to them even earlier if Chile appears to gain confidence.

Otherwise, Chile could be primed for an upset — a result that could leave the Canadians desperate just days into the Tokyo Olympics.

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