A spot in the Olympics is on the line!
On Friday evening the Canadian women's national team will take on Costa Rica in the semifinal of the 2020 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
With a win, they'll secure a place at this summer's Olympics in Tokyo regardless of the result in the potential final, so head coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller will likely select his best possible starting lineup, or something close to it.
With many of Canada’s players performing, what could that 4-4-2 lineup look like in Friday’s crucial semifinal match?
GK - Stephanie Labbe
Labbe has played all three of the group games thus far in the tournament, and allowed 0 goals.
She made a few excellent saves when tested, and will look to keep up that form against a Costa Rica side that should provide more of a challenge to her.
LB - Allysha Chapman
Allysha Chapman, of the NWSL's Houston Dash, has only played in one of Canada's three matches thus far as Gabrielle Carle has been given a shot at left back.
Chapman likely remains Heiner-Møller's number one option, unless he opts to go with the in-form Carle instead.
CBs - Shelina Zadorsky and Kadeisha Buchanan
These two have started every match in this tournament, and there is no reason to change that now.
The pair have been solid in both a back four and a back three, so however Kenneth Heiner-Møller decides to setup his team, these two should be a part of it.
Zadorsky also scored a goal in Canada's most recent game against Mexico.
RB - Jayde Riviere
Although she's usually a forward, Jayde Riviere has been great as a right back/ right wing-back for Canada in this tournament.
Playing on the wing in the opening game against St. Kitts and Nevis, Riviere picked up a goal and two assists, but since then she has played the other two matches in defence. Despite this, she managed to pick up a great assist on Christine Sinclair's goal against Mexico.
It doesn't make sense to take her out of the right back role she has been playing well in, but similar debates about Canadian men's star Alphonso Davies' best position are always at the forefront of national team conversation.
LM - Janine Beckie
Manchester City forward Janine Beckie has had an incredible tournament. She picked up a hat trick in Canada’s 9-0 win over Jamaica, and set up two other goals in a masterful performance. She is capable of winning a game on her own, and will be a focal point of the Canada attack.
CMs - Desiree Scott and Jessie Fleming
Desiree Scott reached the 150 appearance milestone for Canada earlier in this tournament, and has been a big part of Canada’s midfield, playing in all three matches thus far. Nicknamed “destroyer,” Scotts speciality is making big tackles, but is good on both sides of the ball.
Jessie Fleming has been playing with the senior national team for almost seven years already, which is remarkable considering the fact that she only turns 22 in March. She scored in the 11-0 victory over St. Kitts and Nevis last week, and will be an important link between the defenders and attackers.
Sophie Schmidt has also had a good tournament, so Kenneth Heiner-Møller will have a big decision ahead of Friday’s important game. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
RM - Ashley Lawrence
PSG’s Ashley Lawrence limped off the field toward the end of the Jamaica game last week, but played the entire second half against Mexico, and appears to be ready for this crucial “win and you’re in” match against Costa Rica.
She can play in attack and defence, as well as in central midfield, and will likely be deployed wherever there’s a gap that needs to be filled.
STs - Christine Sinclair and Adriana Leon
In case you somehow missed it, the legendary Christine Sinclair sealed her spot as the greatest international goalscorer of all time earlier in the tournament with her record-breaking 185th international goal — the record for both men and women.
Sinclair has three goals in this tournament already and will likely start this match as she chases goal number 200.
Alongside her up top could be West Ham United striker Adriana Leon. Leon, who scored four goals in the tournament opener against St. Kitts and Nevis, didn’t play against Mexico, and only played 20 minutes against Jamaica. She should be rested and ready to cause some damage on Friday night.
Super Sub - Jordyn Huitema
Jordyn Huitema has scored six goals in three matches at this tournament, including five against Jamaica. She is in red-hot form at the moment, but has also played a lot of minutes.
With the possibility of a final against the powerhouse United States in just two days, Canada may opt to rest Huitema today and keep her fresh for the final. That of course could be the opposite of what Kenneth Heiner-Møller opts to do, instead playing Huitema today to try and seal qualification for the Olympics and worry about Sunday later, which might be wise.
My strongest CanWNT XI:
HOW TO WATCH:
The game will once again be televised across various channels and streamed on OneSoccer. I’ll have a recap up shortly after the conclusion of the match as we see whether or not Canada secures their spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.