Despite Strong Squad and High Ranking, Canada Looking to Shed Underdog Label in 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Despite having a strong squad and high FIFA ranking, Canada’s Women’s National team has a lot to prove this World Cup, as they look to live up to their high expectations for this tournament, chasing their first ever finals appearence in a major women’s tournament, despite being one of the top women’s soccer teams for many years now.

The Canada’s Women’s National Team opens up their World Cup campaign next Monday, as they take on Cameroon in a pivotal opening match in Stade La Mosson in Montpellier, kickstarting what promises to be another riveting edition of the Women’s World Cup. Canada never fails to entertain in tournament play, with memories ranging from back-to-back Olympic Bronze Medals to finishing last in the 2011 World Cup and losing a heartbreaking 2-1 match against England in 2015 in the quarter-finals on home soil. That leaves Canada, despite having one of the top players of this generation, Christine Sinclair, and a solid supporting cast playing at some top clubs around the world, never having won or even made the final of a major international women’s tournament, making this edition one of the most important in their history as Sinclair nears the end of her long and storied career.

Canada comes into iteration of the World Cup with high hopes, as the supporting cast around Sinclair being youthful and as strong as ever. In goal, they have the veteran hand in Stephanie Labbé, who has been with the program for 11 years but has been starting since the 2016 Olympics, where she had a great run filling in for the injured Erin McLeod, who was a staple in the Canadian goal for many years prior to that and who is once again missing out on this tournament due to injury.

In defence, they have some standout performers, with Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Allysha Chapman and Shelina Zadorsky expected to shoulder much of the load for “Les Rouges”. Buchanan in particular is one to watch, as she currently plays for the top club in European soccer, Lyon, fresh off a three-peat of Women’s Champions League triumphs. After being named young player of the tournament back in 2015, expect another standout performance from the still-young defender as she starts to enter her prime.

In midfield, they got an array of experience and youthful drive, with Jessie Fleming, Rebecca Quinn, Nichelle Prince, Sophie Schmidt and Desiree Scott in the mix for starting spots, making it a position of strength. Schmidt is a veteran of international play, suiting up for her 4th World Cup, so her and Scott (3 appearances), will be integral to provide veteran mentorship to their younger peers. That is not to say that they will need it, with the younger Quinn plying her trade for top European team Paris FC, as well as Prince with the Houston Dash, giving them a good mix of European and North American experience in the middle. The crown jewel of their midfield, however, is the young Fleming, who is only just 21 but is playing in her second World Cup. The young UCLA product, who has yet to graduate despite her lofty achievements, will be relied upon to be the heartbeat of the Canadian midfield, linking defence to attack with her box-to-box ability.

Up front, there are various threats, with Sinclair, Jordyn Huitema, Janine Beckie and Adriana Leon being amongst the most dangerous. Beckie and Leon are a pair of standouts in England’s top division, with Beckie playing for the famed Manchester city while Leon suits up for the historic West Ham United. Both are good wingers, and should be relied upon to provide good service to the talismanic Sinclair up top. The biggest wild card of them all, however, will likely be the tall Huitema, who has burst onto the scene with her performances at all levels of national team and club play. Despite being born in 2001 (!!!), she has already picked up 21 first-team caps for Canada, and just made the move over to European giants Paris Saint Germain, so she is expected to be the future in terms of striking in goals for Canada. But, despite her young age, she can still contribute, which is why it is hoped she comes through as Canada’s ace up their sleeve this tournament. Should Canada wish, they can pair Huitema and Sinclair up top and stick two of Schmidt, Beckie, Leon or Prince on the wing, or they can use Huitema more as a sub, allowing her to go after tired defences. Either way, the possibilities for Canada are endless.

But, despite their impressive array of talent, as well as a lofty FIFA World Ranking (5th), they are not backed by many to progress deep in the tournament, with one such example being that the CBS bookmaking experts picked the Netherlands as odd-on favourites to win Canada’s group, despite their lower FIFA ranking (check that out here). While some of the skepticism of Canada is warranted, as they have never been able to get over that hump in major international tournaments, it seems that many people are sleeping on Canada, despite them having the pedigree to make a deep run this World Cup.

Not only that, the Guardian projects that it will be “difficult to see them progressing beyond the quarter-finals”(link here), while the New York Times sees them as a “tough out” (link here), not exactly lofty praise for a team with the talent and high internal expectations.

But this may prove to be an advantage, as Canadians usually thrive on this underdog mentality, so it will be interesting to see how Canada gets on this tournament, with Sinclair’s potential retirement, all their youthful enthusiasm and the motivation from being underrated pre-tournament has a chance to come together and motivate the team to reach greater heights, as they look to make their first final in a major tournament.

Since they kick off their campaign in just under a week from now, we’re hoping to have a primer on the tournament up on our site in the next few days, so stay tuned for that! It should be an exciting tournament, and if they are able to inspire the nation with a deep run it may prove to do wonders for not only Women’s soccer but Canadian soccer in the long run, as this nation is starved for some success on the international level. With the underdog label on their belts, look for them to do just that and leave memories for generations to come.

Stay tuned for our Canada primer for this World Cup, coming out later this week!

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