MANITOBA, Canada—Early this morning at 3:30am EST, the Canadian Women’s National Team’s Olympic group was set as FIFA conducted the draw for the Women’s Olympic football tournament at Tokyo
2020 2021 this summer.
After everything was called in Zurich, Bev Priestman’s squad was drawn into Group E alongside Japan, Great Britain, and Chile.
Canada will begin their bid for gold against the hosts on July 21, and then against the Chileans on July 24, with both matches being played in Sapporo, before closing out the group stage vs. Great Britain on July 27 in Kashima.
Canada will have their work cut out for them in this group, as they are tasked with overcoming some significant international pedigree.
Japan were crowned champions at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2011 and were silver medal winners at both the London 2012 Olympic Games and FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015. Despite Japan not quite reaching the same heights in recent times, this 11th ranked Japanese team are a still a side to be wary of, as Canada will know after they fell 4-0 to them in 2019.
Great Britain draw their squad from a wealth of international experience as they are comprised of players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, many of which the Canadians will be very familiar with after their recent friendlies.
The Olympic debutant Chilean squad are more of an unknown quantity to Canada, as the two nations have only met once at the international “A” level, with the Chileans prevailing 1-0 at the Torneio International tournament in Brazil in 2013.
Head coach Bev Priestman was upbeat about her Canadian squad’s chances despite the challenging group.
“Now that we know our pathway at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, I’m excited, the players are excited and we are ready to ramp up our preparations further to achieve our goals,” said Priestman in a press release.
“There is no easy opponent in a women’s football tournament, but we will do everything in our power to make Canada proud. With hard work, the right mindset and a strong belief in our individual and collective ability, Canada can give any team a really difficult game and ultimately succeed in an Olympic Games.”
Elsewhere in the draw, China, Brazil, the Netherlands and Zambia were drawn into Group F, while Group G consists of the United States, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. The top-two placed teams in each group, as well as the two best third-place sides, advance to the quarter-finals.
Canada’s path out of their group could shape up in a few different ways: should Canada finish first in their group, they would face the third place team from either Group F or G in the next round. Should Canada finish second, they would face the runner-up in Group F, and should Canada finish group play in third place, they would face they Group G winner.
If Canada were to finish first in their group and win their quarter-final contest, all signs point to a semi-final matchup against the powerhouse US squad. Canada’s struggles against the United States squad are frustratingly well known to those in this country, with the last victory against the Americans coming in 2001.
Former CanWNT player Clare Rustad illustrated the challenge that the path to gold will be for the Canadians to the CBC.
“It is ideal to avoid the U.S. for as long as possible, but nearly impossible to orchestrate because tournaments can result in some surprise results,” said Rustad. “The U.S. is still a dominant force in women’s soccer, even if the gap is narrowing between them and the European teams, and I do not favour Canada’s chances against them. But Canada would also likely struggle with the Netherlands and even Sweden, so there is no easy path to a gold medal match,”
Despite the hard road forward, the No. 8 ranked Canadian side are a force to be reckoned with in their own right, with the Reds coming into this Olympic games on back-to-back bronze medal finishes in the competition. Canada has shown out as a determined and resolute side in recent matches, with the squad finding contributions from their depth and has shown an ability to find a goal when needed.
Though there are some injury concerns at the moment, Canada look set to head to Tokyo with a strong squad. Add the mercurial Christine Sinclair into the talented side on display against Wales and England and Canada will be a squad many countries will want to avoid facing in this tournament.
Bev Priestman confirms #CanWNT will play in June. “I’m closer [to knowing Olympic roster] but there’s a group of players that are touch and go with injuries. June window will be vital to finalize.” Fit players playing week in, week out will be important given dense schedule.— Oliver Platt (@plattoli) April 21, 2021
The work continues for Bev Priestman and her coaching staff as they prepare their tactics and evaluate their players ahead of the Olympic games, with the manager outlining plans to ensure the best Canada squad in in top shape before the tournament.
"There's some opportunity there to play top 10 opposition, that's my hope. I think in the next week we'll finalize what that June window looks like,"— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) April 21, 2021
-Bev Priestman on the #CanWNT's plans for June. She confirms that Canada will play x2 in June, and x2 after that pre-Tokyo
Canada heads into this tournament aiming to become the third ever women’s football team to reach the podium three-straight times at the Olympics, and judging by the quality of the talent pool at their disposal and the drive of head coach Bev Priestman, they look set to put on a great showing when the games kick off this summer.