Women's World Cup 2015: Canada Team Guide
The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup is just 10 days away, and the host nation Canada is putting the finishing touches on their preparations before opening the tournament against China on June 6 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
It has been a long wait for the eighth-ranked team in FIFA’s world rankings. Without any qualification games to test and tune their squad, they may find it difficult to gauge where their place is among the top teams.
Head coach John Herdman will be hoping for a positive result on Friday as his team takes on England in their final warm-up game. Both sides will be keen not to let anything give before the start of the tournament.
Home-field advantage should be enough to see them through to the knockout stages, but Group A is wide-open and the slightest slip could be a disaster.
The Road to Canada
As hosts, Canada were the first team to qualify for the tournament, but that has meant they haven’t been able to play as many competitive games as the other nations.
The squad finished third at the 2012 London Olympics, shocking France with a 1-0 win in the bronze-medal match.
Spirits will be high after winning three out of their four games at the Cyprus Cup in March, but the biggest test comes against China in 10 days.
The final 23-player squad was announced on 27 April:
Coach Profile: John Herdman
Not to put too much pressure on his side going into this summer’s tournament, but John Herdman believes that, with the help of the Canadian people, the Canucks can go on and lift the trophy.
It sounds like madness—they have never been to a World Cup final before and usually face elimination from the group stage, but it is indicative of Herdman’s ability and philosophy that it is actually a possibility.
The Englishman from County Durham took over from Carolina Morace in 2011 and took a struggling, underperforming side to a bronze-medal win at the 2012 London Olympics.
Herdman has World Cup experience with New Zealand, and just like he did with the Football Ferns, he has created a culture based around high performance and relies on his leaders to inspire trust, confidence and, hopefully, success.
He likes to push his teams to the limit and is leaving no stone unturned in preparation for group games and beyond. The 39-year-old has signed a long-term contract with hopes of bringing through young players to blend with the experienced members of the squad. It appears that he has found the right balance, one that can go all the way.
Star Player: Christine Sinclair
It would be fair to say that 31-year-old Christine Sinclair has a lot on her plate this summer. She is the captain of her country's squad going into a home World Cup. She has over 200 caps for the Canucks since making her debut as a 16-year-old, not to mention she is an official ambassador for the tournament.
"I really haven't spent too much time thinking about the actual World Cup; everything that I'm focused on is the preparation for it," she told The Canadian Press (via CBC Sports). "I'm sure as the tournament gets closer and closer the hype and the excitement will build, but it's all about preparation right now."
Humble and down to earth off the pitch, Sinclair prefers to do her talking with her feet. Be that with her right or left foot, the Portland Thorns striker can punish opponents from anywhere on the pitch.
She likes to impose her will on defenders, using her power and determination to get into areas where she has no right to be. Sinclair is technically gifted on the ball, and just like her personality, it’s not flashy, but it’s clever and sets the tone for this Canadian team.
One to Watch: Jessie Fleming
As hosts of the 2015 World Cup, the pressure is on Canada to entertain and capture the home crowd’s attention. If given the chance, one player that could do that is 17-year-old midfielder Jessie Fleming.
She only recently made her debut just short of her 16th birthday, but with only 15 caps for the Canucks, Fleming is already being heralded as the next big thing in Canadian football. With that brings comparisons to Christine Sinclair.
Fleming spoke to Equalizer Soccer's Harjeet Johal about the comparisons:
I like to think that I’m a well-rounded player. I’d like to be someone who sets up goals and someone that scores them. It’s an honour to even be compared to her. I think there’s no such thing as another Christine Sinclair because I think we’re all different players and you can’t reproduce Christine Sinclair, but that’s just such a compliment.
Sinclair is the goalscorer, and while Fleming is unlikely to score over 100 goals for Canada, she could help set them up.
Technically gifted with great vision and awareness to not only pick out a pass but get on the end of them, she is graceful and has boundless amounts of energy to get up and down the pitch.
Fleming gives off the impression that she is mature beyond her years, but she has that youthful fearlessness that could be a huge bonus for Herdman this summer.
World Cup Record
1991: China—Did not qualify
1995: Sweden—Group Stage (3rd, Group B)
After going 2-0 up against Nigeria, Canada was held to a 3-3 result—that was their only point in the group stage.
1999: USA—Group Stage (3rd, Group C)
After gaining a point in the opening game against Japan, it all went to pieces. Beaten 7-1 by Norway and 4-1 by Russia saw them eliminated.
2003: USA—Fourth Place
Their best World Cup to date. Two wins in the group stage saw them reach the knockout stages. Canada would then beat China 1-0 before Sweden won 2-1 in Portland. They would then lose 3-1 to the hosts and finished fourth.
2007: China—Group Stage (3rd, Group C)
Australian Cheryl Salisbury’s 92nd-minute equaliser stole two points away from Canada in the final group game and saw the Wallabies progress to the knock out stage with five points.
2011: Germany—Group Stage (4th, Group A)
With no points and only one goal, this was the lowest point for Canadian football at a FIFA World Cup.
As hosts, Canada will be expected to win Group A, but it won’t be smooth sailing.
China and New Zealand are not to be taken lightly; the Chinese side recently drew 1-1 with England in a friendly, and that came after they beat the Three Lions 3-1 in a behind-closed-doors match.
Netherlands are the debutants of the group, but they have dangerous players in a number of positions. Canada will be hoping the home crowds can be the 12th member of the team.
Canada vs. China
June 6, 2015, 16:00 local time
Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta
Canada vs. New Zealand
June 11, 2015, 19:00 local time
Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta
Netherlands vs. Canada
June 15, 2015, 19:30 local time
Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec