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Canada Women's National Team W Gold Cup group stage review

All eyes were on tournament hosts the United States heading into the inaugural edition of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, but it was Canada who took the group stage by storm.

Les Rouges were one of only two teams to win all of their matches in the group stage and they took the group's top spot over Brazil to advance into the knockout stages.

There is still a long way to go, but Canada have impressed and will look to carry their form into Saturday's quarterfinal match against Costa Rica.

Les Rouges ease through group stage

Enthusiasm around the Canada Women's team was arguably tempered following their poor performance in the group stage of last year's Women's World Cup.

On that occasion, Canada crashed out before the knockouts, taking four points from three games with Nigeria, Ireland and co-hosts Australia.

But Canada left nothing to chance in the group stage of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, thrashing El Salvador 6-0 in their opener before a 4-0 win over Paraguay in their second group game.

Winger Adriana Leon, who joined Aston Villa from Manchester United last September, was the standout player for Canada in those two matches, scoring five goals.

And head coach Bev Priestman could draw a sigh of relief, knowing her team were already through to the quarterfinals after those two wins.

But Canada refused to take their foot off the gas on Wednesday night, easing to a 3-0 win over Costa Rica to ensure they topped their group, winning all three games, scoring 13 and conceding none.

As a result, Canada took top seed for the knockout stage and will reconvene with Costa Rica, who were seeded eighth, in the quarter-finals.

Tough decisions await Priestman in latter stages

Knowing they were already assured a spot in the knockout phase, Priestman made five changes ahead of that final Group C match with Costa Rica and the players she brought in repaid the faith shown in them.

Jordyn Huitema, for example, scored in that match, while Shelina Zadorsky bagged a brace and both players now have to be in line to feature in the quarter-finals.

That leaves Priestman with a bit of a selection dilemma and it remains to be seen how Canada will line up.

But Priestman can nonetheless hold her head high after the group stage with the final win over Costa Rica having been her 50th match in charge of the national team.

The English head coach has won 31 of those games and will be pleased her side have started 2024 on the front foot given they will be looking to defend their gold medal at the Paris Olympics this summer.

Set pieces could be key going forwards

The influence of winger Leon has been key in Canada's opening matches at the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, while their strength in depth is also paramount.

But stylistically, Canada are also one of the more physical teams left in the tournament and that could become more important if they progress.

Canada's superior technical ability was clear to see against Costa Rica - they managed 67 per cent possession and limited their opponents to only one shot in the match.

A similar story is expected to unfold in the teams' quarterfinal clash at BMO Stadium in California but if they advance and face tougher opponents such as the USA or Brazil later in the tournament, Canada will not see as much of the ball.

If they get to that point, the Canadians will have to look at their aerial abilities and, most notably, their skill at set pieces.

They had not really threatened from corners or free kicks in their first two games in Group C but in their final match against Costa Rica, all three of Canada's goals were headers and two came from corners.

Kadeisha Buchanan is also a key presence at the back and Priestman must not ignore her roster's obvious strengths if they go deep in the USA-based tournament.

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