After reaching the knockout stages of the last two Women’s World Cups, Canada fell short in the 2023 edition. We broke down what is next for the team as they deal with the aftermath of their group stage exit.
Canada are ranked seventh in the FIFA rankings, and with the expansion of the World Cup to 32 teams this year, should in theory have had an easier time progressing from their group.
In fact, Bev Priestman’s side were the highest ranked team in Group B, with Australia (13), Republic of Ireland (24) and Nigeria (45) all trailing in their wake on that front.
The Canucks had no shortage of top level competitive practice coming into the tournament either, facing England, France, Brazil and the United States in 2023.
They picked up a draw against England and beat Brazil so there were no major alarm bells ringing before the competition, and expectations were that they would have a positive campaign.
This is a side that won Olympic gold in Tokyo two years ago so failing to get out of the group is a huge disappointment.
Canada’s 4-0 defeat to Australia will take the headlines after they were knocked out, but much of the damage was done in their 0-0 draw in the opening game against Nigeria.
The Canucks managed just three shots on target in that clash and it was ultimately the African side that pipped them to the final place in the knockout stages so that stalemate was at least partly responsible for their exit.
Bev Priestman’s team scored in only one of their three games and there is the obvious chance that 40-year-old striker Christine Sinclair, who has scored a record 190 goals in 326 games for her nation, is not the player she once was.
Fellow veteran Sophie Schmidt has also announced her retirement and there is a possibility that this team fell between two generations, with their older contingent not at the standard that they once were, and the youngsters not ready to step up in their place yet.
Bev Priestman was hand picked to succeed John Herdman after he took over the Canadian men’s team and she has impressed as Canadian manager, leading them to a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics two years ago.
However any time a team ranked seventh in the world fails to get out of the group at a World Cup, pressure will come for the manager in charge.
Priestman has blamed a change in expectation level after their Olympics win but it is clear that her side did not handle the pressure of being one of the more favoured teams at this year’s tournament.
The 37-year-old did not lay any blame at the door of Canada Soccer, who have been in a battle with the team over pay, after their defeat.
She said that she is aiming to turn things around for the Olympics qualifiers later in the year, clearly stating that she believes she will still be in charge.
Given the goodwill that her Olympics win generated, she is probably right.
With veterans Sophie Schmidt and Christine Sinclair set to retire, opportunities look likely to come for some of Canada’s younger players to step up in their absence.
Jordyn Huitema is the leading light of that generation, having already played 67 times for her country at age 22, and she has scored 16 times for the Canucks.
The OL Reign forward failed to have a major impact at this tournament, however, and will be hoping she can learn from this experience.
Jayde Riviere is another 22-year-old who featured heavily at right-back for the Canucks, and the Manchester United defender will be hoping to hold down that position for years to come after making 40 appearances so far for her nation.
Simi Awujo and Olivia Smith were the only teenagers in this year’s World Cup squad but neither got much action, with Smith’s appearance off the bench against Australia their only game time.
In future perhaps these youngsters will play bigger roles in the fate of the national team after some of the older generation have called it a day.
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