Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team rounded off their June friendlies on Monday with a 0-0 draw against Brazil, their 2nd such result this past week. Here’s what stood out from that game, one in which Canada played a lot better than what the scoreline might suggest.
As far as results go, it wasn’t the ideal scoreline.
In terms of performances, however, there was a lot to like there.
For Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team, they’ll certainly feel like they deserved better than a 0-0 draw against 7th-ranked Brazil on Monday, but alas, it was not meant to be for them, as they had to share the spoils in their last friendly before announcing their Olympic squad later this month.
Having fallen by a combined scoreline of 8-2 in their last 3 games against Brazil, however, Canada is well aware that although the scoreline might suggest otherwise, this is a positive result for them, and they’re happy to take the lessons learned from this game into their next matches going forward.
“I would’ve liked to get the win, I thought we were a lot more dangerous, and I think we deserved the win,” Canada’s head coach Bev Priestman said after the game Monday. “But I can’t take away from this team that over the last 3 times that we played Brazil, there were 8 goals scored on us, so if I look at the positives, we take the step forward, they’re a much harder team to beat.”
And make no mistake, they certainly had their chances to win this game.
By holding 52% of possession, and putting 6 shots on target compared to Brazil’s 2, Canada did what they needed to at both ends of the pitch to win, at least other than actually put the ball into the net, that is.
So although there are questions to be asked of where the goals are going to come from at the Olympics, especially considering that Canada has now been shut out in 4 of their last 7 games, if they continue to defend as they have so far under Priestman, having only conceded 3 goals over that same 7-game timeframe, they’ll give themselves a chance to win most times out.
With all of that in mind, however, here is some of what stood out in Canada’s draw with Brazil from Monday, one in which they showed plenty of good, while also showing some key problems that need to be addressed before the games get going for real.
Kadeisha Buchanan is back in a big way:
And to start, it’s important to point out how good Kadeisha Buchanan was at the back for Canada on Monday, as she made her 2nd start in 3 days, and looked no worse for wear for it, putting up a player of the game performance at the back for her team.
Deployed alongside her usual defensive partner, Shelina Zadorsky, Buchanan showed why she’s so important to this Canadian team, helping keep things tidy at the back in this one.
Canada’s team defence was mostly solid enough to make Buchanan and Zadorsky’s life easier, but there were a few occasions where Brazil did break through the lines, but much to the relief of Canadian fans, Buchanan was often there to save the day in most of those cases.
From a last-ditch lunge to block a dangerous Marta shot, to a bicycle kick clearance off of a nice Brazil cross, Buchanan’s defensive skills were on full display on Monday, unfortunately for Brazil’s attackers.
So for Canada, it’s huge just to have her back in the fold, as she missed Canada’s February camp due to quarantine restrictions, and April’s camp due to a medical concern, meaning that this camp was only the first time that she’d played under Priestman.
You’d almost be forgiven if you’d forgotten about her in those first Priestman games, as Zadorsky and Vanessa Gilles stepped up big in her absence, but with her back in the fold now, you can see why she’s so important to this Canadian team.
Fresh off of a season where she played some big minutes for Lyon, she’s Canada’s star at the back, and she certainly played like it on Monday.
Plus, along with the support that Gilles and Zadorsky provide alongside her, it’s made Canada’s defence the least of their worries at the moment, and Buchanan’s strong return only confirmed that.
Considering that they’ve kept clean sheets in 5 out of 7 games so far under Priestman, only conceding 3 goals total, the stats back that up, as well, so look for this to continue to be a pillar of their game heading into the Olympics.
Midfield trio proves value:
Elsewhere, Canada’s midfield trio of Quinn, Jessie Fleming and Desiree Scott had another strong showing together in the middle of the park, showing why they’ll likely start the Olympics on the field against Japan in the opening game of that tournament.
With Quinn and Scott having been rested in the game Friday against the Czech Republic, Canada appeared to miss their influence in the middle of the park, on both sides of the ball.
Quinn, in particular, was very sorely missed, as their ball-progression passes were sorely lacking against a deep-lying Czech side, so it was good to see them back in for this Brazil game.
Nearly immediately, Quinn almost set up Nichelle Prince with a fantastic bit of play early on, showing what was to come from them.
Along with a few second-half shooting opportunities that were just kept out by Brazil’s Barbara in goal, it was a strong showing for Quinn, who continues to show why they’re not only a lock to be in Canada’s Tokyo squad, but to start in it, as well.
Otherwise, it was a strong performance from Scott alongside them, as she brought the tenacity that she’s so known for. She may have had a quiet night for Scott standards, but that’s because Brazil mostly resorted to playing down the flanks, knowing what she can do when you get close to her in midfield.
Lastly, Fleming looked a lot more involved with the support of Quinn and Scott than she did on Friday when deployed with Sophie Schmidt and Ashley Lawrence, getting forward and remaining quite involved in Canada’s offence.
That nearly paid off for Canada, as Fleming had a few flashes in terms of some dangerous shots and smart passes, showing why freeing her up will play a big role in potentially helping Canada’s middling offence going forward.
So overall, it was a strong night from Canada’s midfield trio, whose play together continues to be one of the biggest bright spots from the Priestman era so far.
More questions than answers up front:
But while Canada’s defence and midfielders shone in this game, you can’t say the same about the forwards, who failed to score a goal for the 2nd time in 3 games.
To give them credit, it wasn’t due to a lack of trying, as getting 6 shots on target is never a bad thing, but on the other hand, they need to find a way to turn some of those shots into goals.
There were some close calls, such as Zadorsky’s 85th-minute header that rocketed off the post and out, but other than that, it was a pretty comfortable night for Barbara in goal, as most of Canada’s dangerous shots ended up way too close to her than they would’ve liked.
Despite that, Priestman does believe that her team isn’t far off from a breakthrough, similar to the one they had in their April camp, where they scored 5 goals across 2 games in the United Kingdom.
On paper, there is some offensive firepower in this Canadian squad, but it just needs to be harnessed, something that they’ve just unfortunately been unable to consistently do as of late.
“I think it’s going to come,” Priestman said. “And I know that I sound like a broken record, but I do think that. I’ve had 29 players in camp, that’s a lot of players on the training pitch and that can sometimes affect partnerships where you don’t put players together in the same team all the time, and I’ll be able to do that leading into the Olympic games. But absolutely, we have to be more clinical.”
Because of this, however, it has only murkied the waters in terms of Canada’s impending roster decision for the Olympics.
Christine Sinclair and Janine Beckie appear to be the lone locks, with Evelyne Viens appearing to be not far behind them, but otherwise, it’s anyone’s guess for who else might be picked up front alongside them.
There have been intriguing performances from the likes of Deanne Rose, Nichelle Prince, Adriana Leon and Jordyn Huitema, among others, but Canada’s going to have to find a way to figure out who can actually help solve their offensive woes among those names listed, as well as a few more who are also in the mix.
It won’t be an easy decision, especially not after these games, but it could be the difference between Canada picking up a medal or going home with nothing, so it’ll be one that Priestman will be thinking plenty about over the next few days.
Strong return to action for Kailen Sheridan:
To round things off, it’s important to shout out Canada’s starting goalkeeper from this game, Kailen Sheridan, who made her first start for Canada since February against the US, as she continues to impress in her return from an injury that she sustained in that same US game.
Having put up a few strong performances for Gotham FC since healing from her quad issue, she returned to the fold for this Canadian camp, and did enough in training to earn a start in this big Brazil game, looking no worse for wear.
It was a quiet game for her, as she only had to make 2 saves, but she did her job, overall looking quite comfortable in her return.
In a crowded Canadian goalkeeper battle, this start only appears to confirm that she and Stephanie Labbe will be Canada’s 2 shot-stoppers called up to Tokyo, which for Sheridan, would be huge considering it was initially feared she’d might miss the games altogether after her injury.
Instead, she kept her head up and fought through the adversity, returning much earlier than anyone expected, showing great grit in the process.
“It feels absolutely phenomenal to be back on the field,” Sheridan told CanadaSoccer.com after the game. “It was heartbreaking before, I didn’t think that this would be an opportunity for me, and I’ve had an incredible group of people in my corner.”
Olympic pulse check?
Lastly, it’s important to note that Priestman will look to release her Olympic squad in the next 10 days, something she said that she was planning to do since before this camp even got underway.
As seen here, it isn’t going to be an easy process, especially with how tight some of the key battles are, but as she pointed out before the camp, she wants to do this to make the squad hierarchy as clear as possible ahead of the games.
So now, a few tough days await her and her staff, as they’ll have to rewatch these games and see what they learned, before making the tough decision to choose which 18 will give them the best chance at medalling in Tokyo.
“I think I have to watch both games back now with a lens where I’m not in camp and I’m thinking about the next performance,” Priestman said. “I need to zoom out a little bit and take the time I need. I’m dealing with players’ dreams to be in the Olympics, so I need to do the due diligence and show the respect to the players that I’m picking the right players and right blend.”
Considering that she’s now had 7 games to study her player pool, she should have enough intel to make a good decision, but at the same time, considering she called up nearly 30 players for this camp, it really shows how many players are on the bubble at the moment.
Either way, a decision needs to be made eventually, so we’ll learn more about where Priestman is at with this group in the next few days, no matter how hard this process may be.
That’s just the reality of the Olympics, where the squad is much smaller than usual, so this is just a byproduct of what that grinding process does for both coaches and players.
Until then, however, Canada’s players will either return to individual training or to their clubs, depending on where they’re at in their season, looking to remain fit ahead of the Olympics next month.
Then, those who are selected are expected to gather a few weeks before the games actually kick-off, allowing them to do some last-minute preparations, including playing a soon-to-be-announced friendly.
“Yeah, we’re pretty close to finalizing a sort of behind closed doors (friendly) prior to the Olympics,” Priestman said. “Yes, that’s the plan.”
But either way, it’s a big summer of soccer for this Women’s National Team, who have a lot to prove in Tokyo this summer.
On paper, there’s no reason why they can’t compete for a medal, but as seen so far under Priestman, they’ve still got some work to do before getting to that point, even though they do have a solid foundation on their hands.
They showed that once again this camp, so now, they’ll hope that they can find a way to take that big step ahead of the Olympics, especially once their squad for that tournament is finalized soon enough here.
Up Next: TBC
Cover Photo via: Canada Soccer/Gerard Franco