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3 things we learned from Canada beating China 1-0 in the Women's World Cup opener

A late penalty proved decisive as Canada walked away as the winner in the first match of the 2015 Women's World Cup.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 Women's World Cup is officially underway, with hosts Canada coming away 1-0 winners over China thanks to a stoppage time penalty winner from Christine Sinclair.

The match started out with the majority of the play running in one direction, with the Canadians running rampant over China's midfield and putting near-constant pressure on their defense. The World Cup hosts looked a class above in the opening spell of the match, playing faster and more aggressively than their opponents, seeming nearly unstoppable in the opening spell.

Eventually, though, Canada had to pull back a bit, with the heat out on the pitch leaving them unable to keep that pressure up forever. That let the run of play even out a bit, with China slowly working their way more into the match. That didn't make the match any less exciting, with shots ringing off the woodwork on both ends of the pitch and a bucket of other attacking chances as well.

Still, you couldn't help but feel that, with Canada getting sloppy in possession and struggling to get as many clean scoring chances as earlier in the match, things were starting to favor China a bit. They were slowly wearing Canada down, using their compact defense to force Canada into running more to try and make an impact, while saving themselves for big chances on the counter attack.

John Herdman kept tweaking his Canadian side's approach to the match to try and unlock China's defense as the match went on. They'd started in a fairly balanced 4-3-3 type of shape, with a structured midfield and high front line. Near the end of the first half, they moved to more of a 3-4-3, with Desiree Scott dropping back between the center backs and both fullbacks staying higher up the pitch. That made things a little better for Canada in attack, but they still struggled to move the ball in the final third.

At the hour mark, Herdman made another change, pulling ineffective striker Jonelle Filigno off the pitch and replacing her with high-motor midfielder Kaylyn Kyle, pushing Sophie Schmidt higher up the pitch in the process. Schmidt was the Canadian having the most success on the ball in attack in this match, so moving her closer to Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi in attack made a lot of sense, and it really helped Canada start to push harder in attack.

Canada started basically camping out in China's half of the pitch, constantly looking to penetrate the back line and make something happen in attack. China was defending with 10 behind the ball at almost all times, though, and even with improved play, finding that scoring chance to break the deadlock. Herdman rolled the dice some more with his last two subs to try to create that chance, pulling de facto defender Scott and tired forward Tancredi for a pair of attackers in youngster Jessie Fleming and the more physical Adriana Leon.

While Canada certainly looked better as the final minutes wore down, they just didn't have the energy left in the tank to break China down thanks to that brutally hot field -- but that didn't matter in stoppage time. One last-gasp attack from the hosts found Leon in the box, and the striker was brought down on the ball to earn Canada a penalty. Christine Sinclair stepped up and finished it off with ease to give Canada a 1-0 lead and a crucial win in their first group stage match.

This was a pretty great opening game all told, with a well-fought match and an electric crowd. Welcome to the Women's World Cup. This is going to be fun.

Canada: Erin McLeod; Josee Belanger, Kadeisha Buchanan, Lauren Sesselmann, Allysha Chapman; Ashley Lawrence, Desiree Scott (Jessie Fleming 71'), Sophie Schmidt; Melissa Tancredi (Adriana Leon 77'), Jonelle Filigno (Kaylyn Kyle 61'), Christine Sinclair

Goals: Sinclair (pen 90'+2)

China: Wang Fei; Wu Haiyan, Zhao Rong, Li Dongna, Liu Shanshan; Tan Ruyin, Ren Guixin; Wang Lisi (Han Peng 42'), Li Ying (Zhang Rui 62'), Gu Yasha (Ma Jun 87'); Wang Shanshan

Goals: none

3 things

1. Canada looks poised for a deep World Cup run -- but they have issues to sort out.

Make no mistake, this Canadian team is one of the best in the World Cup. Their group is one of the toughest in the World Cup and the Chinese team they faced today is pretty darn good, but Canada had them completely outclassed for long stretches of the match. China didn't roll over by any means. They fought to the death, but Canada were simply better -- except for when they weren't. Once the energy of their high-press opening wore off, Canada got a little sloppy in possession and let China back into the match too easily, and too often got caught forcing the ball to Christine Sinclair when there were better or easier attacking options available. This is a Canada side that can go a very, very long ways in this tournament, but they have to address their flaws in order to do it. Those flaws are fixable, but could really hold Canada back if they don't fix them.

2. The Field Turf took a toll

A lot was said about Field Turf leading up to this World Cup, since every stadium hosting a match utilizes the controversial artificial playing surface. Much was made about a believed tendency to "create" injuries, or at least players more susceptible to them, but another factor reared its head in a big way today: the heat. It was 75 degrees Fahrenheit outside when the match started, or about 23 Centigrade. That artificial surface, though, holds and reflects heat in a big way, with one reporter indicating the on-field temperature was more like 120 Fahrenheit (49 C), which is really hard to deal with as a player. You could see it suck the energy out of players as each half wore on, with Canada simply lacking the energy to break China down late in the match. If this heat keeps up, and all indications are that it will for many of the matches across Canada, you're going to see some exhausted players playing sloppy football as a result.

3. Don't sleep on China

The Chinese team may not be exciting or play scintillating, attacking football, but they're a team that you can't count out of any match. Their brand of disciplined, structured football makes them hard to break down, and they have just enough skill up front to make them very dangerous on the counter attack and on set pieces. Canada and the Netherlands are the two favorites in this group for a reason, but China can easily cause an upset or two and land in the knockout rounds. If they pull that off, all bets are off -- who knows how far these women can go?