April 17th, 2024

Tough foes await Canada women at Wednesday’s Olympic tournament draw

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on March 19, 2024.

Canada players including Christine Sinclair (holding ball) celebrate their win against Sweden during the women's soccer gold medal game at the Tokyo Olympics in Yokohama, Japan on Friday, August 6, 2021. Canada could find itself facing two top-10 teams in pool play when it opens defence of its Olympic women's soccer title this summer in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada could find itself facing two top-10 teams in pool play when it opens defence of its Olympic women’s soccer title this summer in Paris.

The tournament draw, which is being held Wednesday in suburban Saint-Denis, sees top-ranked Spain and the fourth-ranked U.S. in Pot 1 alongside host France, currently ranked third in the world.

No. 5 Germany, No. 7 Japan and No 9 Canada are in Pot 2 with No. 10 Brazil, No. 12 Australia and No. 23 Colombia in Pot 3 and No. 28 New Zealand and two yet-to-be-decided African teams in Pot. 4.

Teams were assigned to the pots based on the FIFA ranking released earlier this month.

Given FIFA’s long-standing guideline to ensure, whenever possible, that no group has more than one team from the same confederation, Germany will have to go into the U.S. pool. That means Canada will end up with either World Cup champion Spain or France.

Canada has faced Spain just three times in the past, with two losses and one tie since 2017. Spain won 1-0 last time they met, in February 2022 at the Arnold Clark Cup in Wolverhampton, England.

Canada’s all-time record against France is 5-8-3. The French have won five of the last six meetings, including a 2-1 victory last time out in Le Mans, France, last April.

Australia and Brazil are familiar foes, with both teams having come to Canada for games late last year.

Canada has played the Matildas five times since September 2022, winning four of the meetings. But the one loss was a 4-0 defeat in Melbourne that ended the Canadian campaign at last summer’s World Cup in humbling fashion.

Canada won 5-0 and 1-0 when the two met in December B.C. friendlies in Langford and Vancouver that served as captain Christine Sinclair’s international swansong. Australia fielded an experimental lineup in the lopsided loss in Langford.

The Canadians have faced Brazil five times since November 2022, winning three games and losing two. The team split a two-game series last November with Brazil winning 1-0 in Montreal and Canada emerging victorious 2-0 in Halifax.

The African teams will be determined in the final round of qualifying April 1-9 when No. 65 Zambia plays No. 58 Morocco and No. 36 Nigeria faces No. 51 South Africa in separate two-legged series.

Canada drew 0-0 with Nigeria at last summer’s World Cup.

At the Tokyo Olympics, the Canadian women were drawn with host Japan (then ranked 10th in the world), No. 37 Chile and Britain, which is not ranked by FIFA, in Group E.

The top two teams in each of the three groups plus the two best third-placed finishers advanced to the knockout rounds.

Canada finished second in the group at 1-0-2 before beating Brazil (4-3 in a penalty shootout) in the quarterfinals, the U.S. (1-0) in the semifinals and Sweden (3-2 in a penalty shootout) in the gold-medal game.

Former Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe is slated to serve as a draw assistant Wednesday, along with former Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba, former Argentina striker Javier Saviola and former French star sprinter Marie-Jose Perec.

The draw will be conducted by Jaime Yarza, FIFA’s director of tournaments, and Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s chief women’s football officer.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2024

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