The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off this Friday in France, and Canada is one of the contending teams.
Back-to-back Olympic bronze medallists, Canada is undefeated in international match play in 2019. They’re heading into the tournament as the fifth-ranked team in the world, behind only USA, Germany, England, and France.
The Americans are the defending champions of this tournament, beating Japan in the World Cup Final at BC Place in Vancouver four years ago. Germany is the defending Olympic champions from 2016 though, defeating Sweden for the gold medal in Rio.
Team Canada is looking to make it further than they did in 2015 as hosts, when they lost to England in the quarter-finals, and there’s good reason to believe that’s possible.
Canada’s greatest player is chasing the all-time international goals record, and could do so at this tournament.
Christine Sinclair, who turns 36 next week, is still Canada’s best player. With 181 all-time goals, she’s just three away from American Abby Wambach for the international goals record.
She’ll hope to get it out of the way early, to avoid any possible distractions in what could be her final World Cup.
There are six groups of four teams each, with the top two countries from each group as well as the four best third-place teams moving on to the Round of 16.
Here’s the full list of groups:
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) December 8, 2018
Canada will compete in Group E, with world No. 8 Netherlands, New Zealand (19), and Cameroon (46).
The opening match of the tournament will take place in Paris on Friday (12 pm PT / 3 pm ET), featuring France and South Korea. Canada begins the tournament on Monday (12 pm PT / 3 pm ET) against Cameroon.
The knockout phase begins on June 22, with Round of 16 matches taking place June 22 to 25. The quarter-finals are scheduled between June 27 and 29, with the semis on July 2 and 3.
The final will take place July 7 in Lyon.
Here’s Canada’s group phase schedule (all matches will be televised on TSN in Canada):
Canada has a new head coach leading them, as John Herdman was hired as Canada’s men’s national team coach last year.
Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who served as Herdman’s assistant beginning in 2015, is now in charge.
Canada boasts a core group of veteran players in their 30s, including Sinclair (35), goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe (32), defender Allysha Chapman (30), and midfielders Desiree Scott (31) and Sophie Schmidt (30).
But this is not an old team.
A number of young players that helped Canada win bronze at the Olympics in Rio are coming into their own as they mature. That list includes key players, like top defender Kadeisha Buchanan (23 years old) and their best goal scorer after Sinclair, in Janine Beckie (24). Other returnees include defender Rebecca Quinn (23), midfielders Jessie Fleming (21), Ashley Lawrence (23), and Deanne Rose (20), as well as forward Nichelle Prince (24).
Canada also enters the tournament with three teenagers on the team, including Jordyn Huitema (18), Julia Grosso (18), and Jayde Riviere (18)
Canada has a good team, and a realistic chance to go far in the tournament, but they’re being picked to finish lower than their No. 5 world ranking would suggest by oddsmakers.
Many betting sites are picking the Netherlands to win Canada’s group, despite their lower ranking.
Online gambling site Bodog gives Canada the ninth-best odds of hoisting the World Cup, while PlayNow.com has Sinclair and company in eighth spot.
Both sites agree that USA is the favourite to repeat as champions.
Betting odds (Bodog):
Betting odds (PlayNow.com):