EDMONTON - The Canadian women's soccer team is looking to be tested before next year's World Cup, and they definitely were on Saturday.
An early goal by Yuki Ogimi was all Japan needed in a 3-0 victory over Canada in a women's soccer friendly at Commonwealth Stadium.
With an automatic berth as the hosts of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, the Canadian women don't need to go through the qualifying stages and have been setting up a series of friendlies to keep sharp in advance of the event.
Japan was precisely the challenge they were looking for as the reigning World Cup champions and silver medallist at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Canada won bronze at the same Olympic Games.
Canadian head coach John Herdman said it wasn't an ideal performance, but his team has plenty of time to work out the bugs before the big games begin.
"It was a bit rough, but it is about bringing the best teams here," he said. "As soon as you give the Japanese an inch, they take a yard with that quality that they have. We struggled with their pace in the first 10 minutes, but once we got a hold of it we showed what our potential is for the World Cup.
"There was a 40-minute period there where the girls should be very proud of their performance and what our style can look like. If we can progress and keep that going for the next eight months, we will be in a much better place."
Herdman said he hopes to have his squad play in 12 games in advance of next summer's World Cup.
The player of the game for Canada was defender Allysha Chapman, who earned her first international cap. Chapman said she can only imagine what it could be like to play in front of a full house in cavernous Commonwealth in Edmonton in 2015 after playing her first game in front of a relatively sparse crowd of 9,654 on Saturday.
"I think it would be amazing," she said. "To have that whole stadium full would be unreal."
The passing ability of the strong Japanese squad was on full display in the ninth minute as they took a 1-0 lead. Japan used a three-way passing play that had the Canadian defenders running around before Ogimi put the ball in the corner of the net past Canadian goalie Erin McLeod.
Canada came close in the 15th minute as McLeod sent a long ball on the Japanese net, but opposing 'keeper Erina Yamane leapt up to corral the ball before Christine Sinclair could get a head on it. In the 25th minute, Melissa Tancredi headed a ball just wide of the net.
Sinclair, playing in her 211th game for Canada, had another opportunity with a sliding shot in tight that Yamane was able to save and the defence was able to clear with Canadian players in the box.
Japanese head coach Norio Sasaki said it was important that his team got the early lead, because Canada came on strong afterwards.
"We started the match in a good way and it was good that we scored first," he said through a translator. "If Canada would have scored with the header on the cross from the right side, the game might have gone differently. Most of our players have experience with the World Cup and the Olympics, so we were able to end the game well. I'm happy with the result, but it would have been better had we been able to stop the amount of offence Canada had after our first goal."
Canada continued to press early in the second half as Josee Belanger got a shot on net that almost fooled Yamane, followed up a minute later by Sophie Schmidt sending a ball just wide.
Japan turned the tide in the 66th minute with their best opportunity in some time, but McLeod was able to make a point-blank save on Ogimi. Moments later McLeod got a hand up in time to deflect a good strike from Japan's Kozue Ando.
That renewed pressure paid off in the 70th minute as Yuri Kawamura headed in her first goal for the Japanese senior team on a play set up by a corner kick.
Canada tried to get back into the game and had their closest chance of the second half in the 73rd minute when Sinclair headed a ball wide of the target.
Canadian midfielder Diana Matheson left the game in the 78th minute with an apparent leg injury.
Japan made it 3-0 in the 80th minute as Saori Ariyoshi made a great crossing pass to give Nahomi Kawasumi an easy tap-in goal.
Kawasumi also hit a post in the 90th minute.
Coach Sasaki was asked about the challenges of playing on artificial turf, a controversial component of the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
"The balls don't act regularly, but I think if we get used to it, we can handle it well," he said. "It was a good opportunity for us to play here. Our players are very short and we do a lot of sliding. We had some scratches. Maybe they could water the pitch a bit to help cope with that."
The two teams play again on Tuesday in Vancouver.
NOTES: The last time these two teams met was in both nations' opening matches at the 2012 Olympics in London when Japan came away as 2-1 winners. Melissa Tancredi scored the lone goal for Canada … It was the first appearance by the Canadian women in Commonwealth Stadium since Oct. 30, 2013, when they defeated South Korea 3-0… Canada as hosts and Japan as the reigning champions will be two of the 24 finalists that take part in next year's FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015. The 52 matches in the final competition will be played from June 6 to 5 July… There was a moment of silence before the game to recognize the two soldiers killed this week in separate attacks. The Canadian team wore black armbands to honour the fallen military members.