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It seemed like only yesterday that the Canadian Women's National Team (CanWNT) were returning from Tokyo with gold medals around their necks. Soccer is a fleeting sport, in the sense that such successes become memories quickly as the next challenge presents itself. For the CanWNT, that challenge comes in the form of the CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico, which doubles up as qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, the 2024 Olympic Tournament at Paris. and the 2024 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Photo credit: Derek Bressette
The Canada Women's National Team before their friendly against Korea. Photo Credit: Canada Soccer

As a tune up, the Olympic champions played a friendly in Toronto on June 26 against South Korea, the runners-up at the 2022 Asian Cup in India. While the pre-game toasted a century of caps for Kim Hye-Ri, Ashley Lawrence, Jessie Fleming and Kadeisha Buchanan, as well as the retirement of Diana Matheson, the spoils would be shared for both teams. The Koreans had a fluid 3-5-2/5-3-2 depending on possession, as they would hold off the hosts in stifling conditions. From that standpoint, this was the perfect preparation for Canada, who will play group games against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama and Costa Rica - teams that will have no issue dropping back to limit potential damage on the scoresheet.

"I think they were defensively very organized and we expected that... we did a very good job of keeping possession, it's now about how we can be ruthless and break down a deep block that is defending well. So definitely some learnings for us for the tournament, good preparation. I thought we had good spells but we expect to win these games so it's about turning up the edge a little bit and finishing the match with a W.

Desiree Scott, Canada Midfielder, after the friendly against South Korea.

When on the attack, the CanWNT had set out to exploit height differences between themselves and South Korea. As such, aerial entries into the box were the order of the day as Jordyn Huitema, Adriana Leon and Ashley Lawrence bothered the Korean keeper, Yeon, with headers. It is noted that Janine Beckie led much of the build up play, especially on the right side. Perhaps something to watch out for in Mexico.

Truth be told, the second half was more about players getting minutes, with a litany of substitutions from both sides. Also, the Southern Ontario humidity was having it's say as players felt the heat down the stretch. Canada nearly completed a famous victory in stoppage time but Yeon was stubborn and a touch fortunate, as the Korean defense kept the hosts out of the goal. There is little doubt that finishing would be a focus for the team between this friendly and the CONCACAF W Championship, given what is at stake.

Final score: Canada 0, South Korea 0

International Friendly

"I think it's just presence and communicating from the back so we can push higher. So if I'm higher, they can be higher... if anything, it's me helping the centre backs take out the two (number) 9s... or one 9. So ideally being like a third centre back".

Kailen Sheridan, Canada Goalkeeper, after the friendly against South Korea.

South Korean manager, Colin Bell, described the game as good result for his team, who have already qualified for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, via their Asian Cup exploits. One would surmise that Canada's group opponents would have a similar line of thinking when they run into the red and white. The key for Canada is variety. The team will likely control possession but channelling this into different ways of entering the final third will be key for hitting the back of the net.

The CONCACAF Championship features eight teams split into two groups of four. A fan might say that Canada have been given a favourable draw with the USA, Mexico and Jamaica all playing in the same group, which means that one of these of these nations will be missing the World Cup and Olympics. However, this also means a tricky semi-final match-up, as the top two teams progress from each group.

The CanWNT will want to take maximum points from their three group matches, to make a statement, but they will also want to avoid finishing second in the group. A potential semi-final against the USA would not be ideal, even if the once mighty USWNT seem to be showing signs of mortality on the international stage. The 2020s have ushered in a decade of success and expectation for both the Canadian women's and men's national teams and the CanWNT definitely have the personnel to win their upcoming tournament and prove that Tokyo 2020(1) was not a fluke performance. Finishing top 3 should be a base goal, while victory or finishing runner-up are very attainable as well.

For reference, The top two teams in each group earn automatic berths for the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia

and New Zealand. The two third-place nations will have a chance to qualify for the World Cup via the inter-continental playoffs that will be held from Feb. 17-23, 2023. Further, the winner of the 2022 Concacaf W Championship will automatically qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics and next summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup. The runner-up and winner of the third-place match will face each other in a playoff in September to determine the other CONCACAF representative at the Olympic Games. The winner of that playoff will also qualify for the 2024 Concacaf Gold Cup. In essence, a Canadian triumph would lay down a global marker and create less stress for the next 8 months.

*Check out our interview with TSN Soccer reporter, Matthew Scianitti*

The entire CONCACAF W Championship will be available on OneSoccer in Canada, while CBC Sports will provide national coverage of Canada's matches against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday and Panama on Friday on a delayed basis at 12:30 a.m. local time, along with live coverage of the match against Costa Rica on July 11 at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Nii Wallace-Bruce

Soccer Analyst

Pro Sports Podcasters


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