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Are Canada Being Underestimated by Everyone Ahead Of The FIFA Women’s World Cup?

And is it justified?

FOOTBALL-OLY-2020-2021-TOKYO-PODIUM Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

Well, this is intriguing. I doubt this has happened before wherein the current Olympic Champions are being doubted on their ability to make it deep in the World Cup but that is the world, we live in.

What makes CANWNT a threat?

Canada Women’s National Soccer team is currently ranked 7th in the international rankings and for good reason.

The Canadians have featured in every World Cup since 1995 and as previously stated, they are currently serving as the Olympic Champions after beating the current World Cup Champions USWNT in semi-finals and Sweden in the finals.

Additionally, the Canadian team is stacked with talent in almost every position. First and foremost, the feather in Canada’s proverbial cap is Christine Sinclair, the legendary forward who is the current highest international goal-scorer of all time. Yes, that is across men’s and women’s football.

In midfield, the Canadians have experienced options like Desiree Scott and Sophie Schmidt, alongside younger players like Jessie Fleming and Julia Grosso. In fact, the midfield is so stacked that promising players like Victoria Pickett have been overlooked. Topping it off, in defense, you have talents like Shelina Zadorsky, Ashley Lawrence and more.

Here is the complete Canadian 25-player squad:

Goalkeepers: Sabrina D’Angelo (Arsenal), Lysianne Proulx (SCU Torrense), Kailen Sheridan (San Diego Wave)

Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan (Chelsea), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash), Vanessa Gilles (FCF Olympique Lyonnais), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain), Jayde Riviere (Manchester United), Jade Rose (Harvard University), Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham Hotspur)

Midfielders: Marie-Yasmine Alidou D’Anjou (Famalicão), Simi Awujo (University of Southern California), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea), Julia Grosso (Juventus), Quinn (OL Reign), Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash), Desiree Scott (Kansas City Current)

Forwards: Jordyn Huitema (OL Reign), Cloé Lacasse (SL Benfica), Clarissa Larisey (BK Häcken), Adriana Leon (Portland Thorns), Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Deanne Rose (Reading), Evelyne Viens (Kristianstads)

So, the question remains, if the Canadians are stacked in various positions, have winning pedigree, play a style of football that is suited to winning knockout competitions, then why the doubts?

Why do people doubt Canada’s chances?

  • Current form: To put it simply, Canada has been in awful form. Since the turn of the year, Canada have lost 3 out of the 4 games played, with the sole victory coming against Brazil while they lost 2-0 to USWNT, 3-0 to Japan and 2-1 to France.

The France defeat is especially concerning as the Canadians struggled to beat the relentless French pressing and were stuck in their own half at times. Fortunately, France also had difficulties with their finishing, or the match could have ended much worse for Canada. In fact, in the 64th minute, a forced error from Kailen Sheridan led to the winning goal from Léa Le Garrec.

In Canada’s favour, Priestman was trying a new system in which they had two attacking players in the middle of the park, Julia Grosso and Jessie Fleming, in front of sole defensive CM, Sophie Schmidt but still, losses are losses and having so many losses before the World Cup begins is never a good omen.

  • Group of BDeath/balance: Canada has been placed in Group B alongside Australia (co-hosts), Ireland, and Nigeria. That is as balanced a group as it gets and has lots of potential upsets in the making.

First up is Australia, the co-hosts and the 10th ranked team in the world, led by Sam Kerr. Do I need to say further? Sam Kerr has been named the Football Writers’ Women’s Footballer of the Year for the second time after scoring 26 goals in 34 appearances for Chelsea this season.

The Australian forward is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world and as long as she manages to stay fit for the entire World Cup, Australia has a chance to beat any team and we have a chance at seeing her backflips. This is, of course, even before we mentioned other great players like Caitlin Foord.

Another thing being, Australia is in opposite form of Canada at the moment. As compared to Canada’s 3 losses and 1 win, Australia has actually won 3 out of their last 4 games with the most impressive win being their 2-0 victory over European Champions, England.

Then comes Nigeria, a team with formidable attacking options in Rasheedat Ajibade, Desire Oparanozie, and Asisat Oshoala should be feared and same goes for Super Falcons. While their defense may be a weakness, their attacking prowess, especially Oshoala’s versatility and track record, make them a team to be feared.

Oshoala, in particular, has been in devastating form recently and her class is evident from the fact that she has won the African Women’s Football of The Year 5 times in a row.

She joined Barcelona in 2019 and since then has helped Barcelona win 4 titles in a row. To put this into perspective, Atlético de Madrid had pipped Barcelona to the title in the previous 3 seasons before Oshoala and Jennifer Hermoso’s arrival and the last time that Barcelona won the title before 2019-20 was back in 2014-15 season. Oshoala has also finished the 2021-22 as the league’s topscorer and the 2022-23 as the league’s third highest scorer.

Last, but certainly not the least is Republic of Ireland making their first ever appearance in Women’s World Cup. Ireland qualified for the World Cup in something that can only be as, “straight out of a movie”. After finishing second in their qualifying group behind Sweden, Ireland met their rivals Scotland in a playoff and were able to qualify thanks to a 72nd minute goal from Amber Berrett.

In fact, since their opening loss in the qualifier against Sweden, Ireland were unbeaten in their last 7 group stage games of the qualifiers, ending the group in 2nd place with a goal difference of +22 (but that helped by a 11-0 and 9-0 drubbing of Georgia).

By no means is this an easy group and if Canada is to reach far, they have to top the group because finishing 2nd in the group means facing England whereas topping the group could mean facing either Denmark or China (sorry Haiti, you’re lovely and it’s not you, it’s me.)

  • Injury: What’s new? Injuries have been ravaging most, if not all, the teams partaking in this World Cup. USWNT has already lost their captain Becky Sauerbrunn, Mallory Swanson, Catarina Macario and many more to injuries. While England might be in an even worse position after losing Beth Mead in attack, Fran Kirby in midfield and their captain Leah Williamson.

Canada’s situation is not as bad as the above two but is certainly no exception to this trend since they lost their forward Janine Beckie, to an ACL tear, who is currently their 4th highest top-scorer of all time and their 6th highest assist provider of all time.

  • Palpable discord: Canadian soccer and their men’s and women’s teams have been in a labor dispute for over a year now and it still hasn’t been resolved. The women have been without a labour deal since the last deal which expired in 2021. They did reach an agreement on compensation in principle for 2022 but some details remain to be finalized.

Having players distracted by off-the-pitch issues so close to the World Cup is not at all ideal and could be one of the reasons that derails Canada’s aspirations for this upcoming competition.

Final thoughts

After further analysis, many of the questions being raised can be addressed but one. The pay dispute may be resolved, and although there is only one major injury, Canada’s poor form remains a huge cause of concern.

Considering the challenging nature of Canada’s group, they will need a strong start if they hope to go far in the competition. Currently, that outcome seems unlikely. However, there is a chance that Canada could finish second in the group and still advance by defeating England. Undoubtedly, they would prefer to finish first. A little over three weeks to go before we have all the answers.

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