Match Previews

City Edition: Women's World Cup Preview - Canada

Article originally appeared in City Edition Issue 11, written by Chris O'Mahony Reigning Olympic champions Canada are the number seven seeds in Fifa’s rankings ahead of next month’s World Cup and have been drawn to play Ireland, Australia, and Nigeria in the group stages of the World Cup. Nigeria are the lowest-ranked team in Group B, but Canadian football expert Ben Steiner, who works for Canada’s national broadcaster CBC, feels that the African side could be Canada’s toughest opponents, having played out a 2-2 draw last year in a friendly. With that in mind and Canada’s mounting injury list he describes Ireland’s Group B as the ‘Group of Death’, with all games expected to be extremely competitive. “When you look at Canada’s group, the opponents will be testing but they are not world beaters by any means,” says Ben. “Nigeria is probably the toughest test for the Canadian team. The games with them last year went okay but I think Canada would have expected a bit more. “In the friendlies they did quite well against Australia when they played them last year and they struggled against Nigeria, they got a couple of wins, but they struggled and there is a big unknown with Ireland. I think in essence Group B is going to be the Group of Death in this tournament because every team has a chance of doing well, to not only win the group but advance quite far in the knockout stages.” While the Canadians have a wealth of talent at their disposal, their most decorated player is without doubt Christine Sinclair, the world’s all-time leader in international goals for women or men with an astonishing 190 goals, one of the most capped active players in the world and the second player, after Marta and later equalled by Cristiano Ronaldo, to score at five World Cups. Irish defenders will have their hands full, as Ben believes Sinclair is under a lot less pressure going into this World Cup than previous tournaments and leading her country to glory in Australia despite far from ideal preparation. “I think there is expectation going into the tournament as reigning Olympic gold medallists,” he says. “But for Sinclair, if she hadn’t gotten that gold medal there would be a lot more pressure. But by the fact of getting that gold medal, that crowning achievement and having all those records there would be a lot more pressure. “While there are certainly considerations for winning the World Cup for this squad, you look at the team now and that’s not exactly there. If you look at the teams in the group, it's going to be a testing group and also the amount of injuries they have. You look at Janine Beckie and she is not going to be at the World Cup. Quinn is just getting back into form, you look at an aging Christine Sinclair, Buchanan had some injuries as well, D’Angelo and Sheridan both have injuries. There are injuries everywhere, the Canadian team is injury-stricken right now. “And there are a lot of issues with the federation, Canada Soccer, about pay equity, treatment and how much they get, not only in their pockets for playing with the national team, but also the opportunities. There haven’t been many camps for men or women because Canada Soccer simply doesn’t have any money. There is not enough money to run soccer in Canada, a sport that has never been more popular than in recent years due to the success of the men’s and women’s teams, and that has caused some big unrest within the federation.” Another consideration for Ireland in what, on paper at least, looks likely to be our toughest game is the versatility of the Canadian team. “The Canadian team are fairly adaptable,” says Ben. “They are quite heavily reliant on their centre backs. Vanessa Gilles and Kadeisha Buchanan are probably two of the best centre backs playing in Europe right now. “They could play with those two playing at the heart of a four at the back or they have recently toyed around with a 3-5-2 as well. One of the big movements in the past few years has been Christine Sinclair’s emergence as more of an eight and when she is there rather than an outright nine, she is able to support better. Having her play that role, you don’t necessarily have that outright finisher, and that has been an issue for Canada in the past, but with the form that Jordyn Huitema is playing in the NWSL, with the way Quinn is playing, you can create that midfield pivot as well. “So, they can play anywhere between and 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2 and they can drop to a 4-5-1 off the ball.” When the draw for the World Cup was made, the general feeling was that Canada would top Group B. However, one of the other teams in the group could take advantage of their current woes. So, where does that leave one of the favourites for the World Cup? “Canada are the Olympic gold medallists but when you look at the group and the injury situation, just getting out of the group might be a more realistic goal,” says Ben. “I think initially, before the injuries and the situation they find themselves in, I would have said to win the World Cup or at least make the final. But now it’s try to make the semi-final, but even the quarter-final at this point, without some of the key players, especially Janine Becky, would be impressive.” Ireland kick off their World Cup campaign on July 20 against Australia in Stadium Australia. In the next issue of City Edition, I chat with Samantha Lewis from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and get her views ahead of the World Cup. Chris O’Mahony

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