The SheBelievesCup is the ultimate test for coaches of Priestman and the Canadian women’s soccer team

After years of flying under the radar of international football, the Canadian women’s team has become a team to be feared due to its achievements in the last three Olympics.

Back-to-back bronze medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016 are nothing but appetites, as taking gold in Tokyo in 2021 cemented Canada’s status as an elite nation in the women’s game.

But for all Canada’s achievements at the Olympics, success at the FIFA World Cup has eluded them. A semi-final appearance at the 2003 tournament gave way to a series of forgettable appearances, including a last-place finish in 2011 and a disappointing quarter-final exit at home four years later.

Coach Bev Priestman’s team will aim to capitalize on a gold medal run in Tokyo and finally shed its reputation as World Cup underachievers at this summer’s tournament July-August 20. 19, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Prior to that, Canada had some important business to attend to, all with the aim of becoming a World Cup champion. Rank No. No. 6 in the world, Canada will compete in the SheBelieves Cup in the United States where it will face top-ranked America, Brazil (No. 9) and Japan (No. 11). The tournament takes place February 16-23.

WATCH | Bev Priestman on Canada’s preparations for the women’s World Cup:

Bev Priestman on CanWNT’s preparations ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Host Andi Petrillo sat down with head coach of the Canadian women’s national team Bev Priestman at Soccer North.

The Canadian is no stranger to the SheBelieves Cup, having competed in the 2021 event ahead of that summer’s Tokyo Olympics. That year’s four-country tournament marked Priestman’s debut as coach of Canada, and while the Reds fell to a pair of defeats (to the US and Brazil) and narrow wins (over Argentina), they gained valuable game experience. against some of the world’s top countries.

It was also at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup defender Vanessa Gilles earned just her third cap (and second start) in a standout performance in the opening match in the US, paving the way for her to become one of Canada’s key starters, starting in Tokyo where she displaced veteran Shelina Zadorsky.

The hope is to test himself next month against the US (two-time World Cup winners), Brazil (who split a two-game series against Canada in November) and Japan (one of the most technically adept teams in the world). ) that Canada will be preparing to go on to advance at the World Cup where it will compete in a first-round group with Australia, Republic of Ireland and Ivory Coast.

“When we came back from [Tokyo] Our Olympiad sort of examines what it takes to win the World Cup. We know there are different styles, different levels of opposition,” said Priestman. “It’s critical, it’s important. You’re always learning a new lesson.”

After the SheBelieves Cup, Canada is expected to play two friendlies at home during FIFA’s international window from April 3-11, and another pair of match-ups in the July window before the World Cup. Priestman will have to make the most of this window of opportunity, as it will be his only chance to work with his players before the World Cup. He also had to deal with some major injury issues.

Strikers Deanne Rose and Nichelle Prince are still out of action after both tore their Achilles tendons in 2022, putting their World Cup participation in doubt. Fullback Jayde Riviere, who signed for Manchester United this week, is treating a lower body injury after undergoing surgery last September. As a result, Priestman will likely use the next three international windows, in part, to give young teams more opportunities to cut their teeth.

Trying to work up a team’s overall depth going into the World Cup isn’t a bad idea, especially with the Paris Olympics looming. Canada has yet to qualify for next summer’s event, and in order to retain its Olympic gold medal, Canada must face Jamaica in a two-legged home-and-away playoff in September.

WATCH | Bev Priestman on Canada’s preparations for the women’s World Cup:

2 teams come so far into the new professional women’s soccer league

The long awaited professional women’s soccer league is being formed in Canada with two signed teams. As organizers work to recruit six more teams, they believe Canadians will flock to watch the women play.

Canada beat Argentina and Morocco, who both qualified for this summer’s World Cup, in a pair of exhibition matches last October despite missing six members of the gold medal team from Tokyo, including captain Christine Sinclair and Ashley Lawrence. In their absence, it has been the likes of midfielder Simi Awujo and defender Jade Rose (both 19 years old) who have featured prominently.

“It’s even more interesting as a coach when you look under your bench – whoever starts, whoever finishes, you know that the whole team has contributed to the win,” Priestman said after the win against Morocco.

Winning a tough game without so many supporters in the starting lineup would have been unimaginable for Canada three years ago. But Priestman has effectively turned to his young players in times of need, all for the long-term health of the program.

In one of their recent matches against Brazil, 17-year-old forward Amanda Allen came off the bench in the 71st minute and put in a decent showing on her senior team debut.

“What you see is [Allen’s] back entry capability [Brazil’s defence], his level of work, his technical capabilities. It was a natural debut for such a young player,” said Priestman.

“I am committed, whether it be this series or in the future, to provide young players with opportunities and experiences.”

Veteran midfielder Sophie Schmidt, one of only three Canadian players with more than 200 caps, credited Priestman and his unwavering faith in young players for the progress the team has made since his appointment in late 2020.

“Overall and collectively and as a team we can perform. But then within that team there are also some extraordinary individuals who have brilliant moments in the game that can carry us,” Schmidt told CBC Sports.

“This is very exciting for Canadian football, both in the near term and in the long term.”

Hadwin Floyd

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