Canada learned their fate for the 2023 FIFA World Cup today with the defending Olympic champions being drawn in Group B. It’s a group of familiar faces for Canada, with two of the three opponents being teams they have played multiple times in 2022 – which means Bev Priestman’s side knows a lot about their upcoming World Cup opponents.
A familiar opponent for Canada, Les Rouges actually faced off against the co-hosts last month in both Brisbane and Sydney. Whilst Canada won both games, they were tough encounters in which Canada had to be at their best at the back and upfront to record a 1-0 and then 2-1 win. The two teams have also met in the 2007 World Cup, where the ever present Christine Sinclair scored in a 2-2 draw between the two in the group stage.
Going into the tournament, the largest threat from the Aussies will once again be Chelsea forward Sam Kerr, who is one of the elite talents in Women’s football. Kerr will be twenty-nine when the tournament starts, and will be at the peak of her powers as she looks to lead the line and add to her impressive total of fifty-nine goals for Australia! Playing the hosts will be a tough ask for Canada, especially given how famously passionate Australian sports fans can be, but recent history shows Canada have nothing to fear going into fixture, although they can’t afford to take the thirteenth highest ranked team in the FIFA rankings lightly. They have reached three consecutive quarterfinals, and weee Asia Cup champions in 2010! Other key players as well as Kerr include; Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Katrina Gorry.
Republic of Ireland
Ireland are a new addition to the Women’s World Cup having earned qualification to the biggest stage in Women’s football for the first time this month. Canada last played Ireland at the 2014 Cyprus Woman’s Cup which Canada won 2-1, thanks to goals from Diana Matheson and current CWNT Star, Sophie Schmidt. Ireland were the ranked thirtieth in the world at the time, and are now ranked twenty-fourth having qualified for their first ever to tournament.
Ireland are a very experienced team, five members of their squad who defeated Scotland have at least ninety-seven caps and many of their players apply their trade in Englands Women’s Super League. Players for Canada to look out for are Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe and Ruesha Littlejohn – who scored for Ireland in that fixture back in 2014.
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Another familiar foe, Nigeria were arguably the toughest team Canada could’ve got from Pot 4, but just like Australian, it’s a team they know well. Canada played a two game series against the Super Falcons. Canada dominated both games but Nigeria were a tough opponent to break down, the Canadians did eventually break through for a 2-0 win in Vancouver, but were held to a 2-2 draw in Victoria three days later, a game in which Canada and Women’s soccer legend Christine Sinclair scored one of her finest ever goals! This will also be the third time Canada has faced Nigeria in the World Cup, the two teams tied 3-3 in 1995, and in 2011, Nigeria put the final nail into Canada’s coffin, as they knocked the Canadians out with a 1-0 win in the group stage.
Nigeria are the most successful Women’s team in Africa, they have won eleven Women’s Africa Cup of Nations titles, and are ranked forty-fifth in the world, making them the highest ranked African side. They have also reached nine World Cups, with a quarterfinal appearance in 1999 being the teams best performance to date. Key players include; Asisat Oshoala, Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene and Rita Chikwelu.
Canada don’t have a super easy group, but it’s a manageable group which will challenge them while still having them as favourites. It’s never easy to play the hosts, it’s very conceivable to see that game either being a tight win for Canada, or a draw. Against Ireland and Nigeria, Canada should be expected to beat both of those opponents but as we seen in Victoria – Canada can’t afford to take teams of Ireland and Nigerias level lightly. Providing they play those two to their full capacity, they can expect to finish top of the group with either seven or nine points.
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