PREVIEW: Canada vs Great Britain — Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Women’s Football
Canada vs Great Britain
July 27, 2021 at 7:00 am EST/8:00 pm JST
Kashima Soccer Stadium in Kashima, Japan
Watch Live: CBC TV, CBC Gem, CBC Olympics app, CBC Sports’ Tokyo 2020 website.

Canada’s third and final group stage match at Tokyo 2020 takes place on Tuesday morning, as they take on Great Britain in a top-of-the-table clash. With first place in the group still up for grabs, as Great Britain only lead Canada by two points, this game has the potential to be the best one in Group E thus far.

Great Britain are a perfect two wins from two, beating Chile 2-0 and Japan 1-0, while Canada sit second in the group on four points after a draw with Japan and Saturday’s 2-1 win over Chile. With Japan taking on Chile on Tuesday morning as well, and expected to beat them, Canada will want to pick up at least one point to secure a top-two spot, and not rely on being one of the two best third-placed teams.

These two sides have only played against each other once before — a 2-0 Canada win at the quarter-final stage of the London 2012 Olympics, beating the home side thanks to first half goals from Jonelle Filigno and Christine Sinclair.

The Team GB side is made up of players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (although none from the latter made the squad for this tournament), and only take part in the Olympics. This is their second Olympic appearance, as they didn’t send a team to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. On the current team, there are two Scottish players (Kim Little and Caroline Weir) and one Welsh player (Sophie Ingle), with the rest of the squad being made up of English internationals.

Canada have beaten Wales and England in 2021 — defeating both in April. A three-goal performance in Cardiff on April 9 started that international window with a bang, before a 2-0 win in Stoke-on-Trent capped it off with a second-consecutive clean sheet. Évelyne Viens scored in both of those matches, announcing herself on the international stage after impressing at the club level.

This will certainly be the toughest match yet for the Canadians, who will be up against superstars at the level that Japan and Chile didn’t necessarily have in the same quantity. Jessie Fleming’s Chelsea teammate Fran Kirby was outstanding in the 2020-21 season, helping Chelsea repeat as FA Women’s Super League champions and win the Women’s FA Community Shield and FA Women’s League Cup. She was a focal point in her side’s run to the 2020-21 UEFA Women’s Champions League final as well, but The Blues would come up just short, losing in the final to Barcelona.

19 of the 22 players in this Great Britain team play for one of the FAWSL’s “big three” clubs — Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal — while Rachel Daly’s Houston Dash won the NWSL Challenge Cup in 2020, with Daly winning the tournament’s MVP and Golden Boot.

This Great Britain team is one of the best in this tournament, and Canada expect to be challenged from minutes one through ninety.

“We knew that each match of this tournament was going to be a fight, and it will be especially against Great Britain,” said Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott in a press release. “We need to use all our depth in this squad, but also stay connected as a team. And we need to be ready to battle, to bring our fight and our edge, and that is what each and everyone of us is going to do.”

While still giving their opponents a lot of respect, Canada head coach Bev Priestman is still optimistic that Canada will pick up a result.

“We absolutely want to win this match, get the points, and move on to the next round,” said Priestman. “Keeping the knockout stage in mind, we have to make sure our players are as rested and as fresh as possible, but we have an incredible depth within our group of players, and I believe this can give us a result against Great Britain.”

Judging from those comments, it sounds as though Priestman may opt to rotate the squad a bit again. Desiree Scott, Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky, Ashley Lawrence, Jessie Fleming and Janine Beckie have all played every minute for Canada at this tournament, and could be among the players Priestman may choose to begin the match on the bench.


  • Ellen White in great form: Great Britain’s Ellen White has been one of the best strikers at the tournament thus far, scoring three goals over Great Britain’s first two group games — twice against Chile and once against Japan. She’s responsible for all of the goals her team has scored at the Olympics thus far and sits in a four-way tie for 4th in the golden boot race, behind Vivianne Miedema and Barbra Banda (six goals) and Wang Shuang (five goals). She’s been a clinical finisher in the Women’s Super League for years, currently with Manchester City, and is second all-time in goals scored in league history with 54, trailing Miedema by six. She could cause a lot of problems for the Canadian backline, and has scored against Canada before — heading home the winner in a 1-0 friendly match win while wearing an England kit in April 2013. She also scored twice against New Zealand in Team GB’s only warmup match — and is their most in-form player at the moment.
  • Good start to the match important for Canada: Canada have dominated the first hour or so in both of their matches at the tournament thus far, but started to fade as the match went on. An 84th-minute goal from Mana Iwabuchi rescued a point for Japan last week, while a 57th-minute penalty from Karen Araya brought Chile back into Saturday’s game and giving her side a ton of momentum for the last 30 minutes or so. Deanne Rose was a spark off the bench again, coming on a few minutes after the Chile goal and causing problems going forward, but Canada started to wear out out as they defended their one-goal lead. A strong start against Great Britain could go a long way toward picking up a result, and possibly even winning the group. Canada scored early against Japan, and had early chances against Chile — plus the goal Évelyne Viens scored three minutes into April’s game against a similar backline to the one Team GB has used at Tokyo 2020 — so we know they’re more than capable of starting on the front foot against strong opposition.
  • Manchester City players key to both teams: Janine Beckie was the best player for Canada on Saturday against Chile, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win, and she’ll be looking for a similar performance against several of her Manchester City teammates on Tuesday. Great Britain’s squad features 10 players from The Citizens, including the aforementioned Ellen White, England captain and Team GB co-captain Steph Houghton, and talented young goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, among others. The familiarity that the Manchester City contingent has will help a Team GB side that only played one friendly in the nine years between London 2012 and Tokyo 2020, and is a group full of quality that finished just two points back of Chelsea for the FAWSL title. All ten of them have played in both matches at these Olympics thus far, with the exception of Demi Stokes, who has only played once. Great Britain also have five of Jessie Fleming’s Chelsea teammates and four players from Arsenal, with Everton’s Sandy MacIver, Manchester United’s Ella Toone, and Houston Dash’s Rachel Daly the other players in the squad not from the FAWSL’s top three sides.


 Canada wins: 1 || Great Britain wins: 0 || Draws: 0

Previous match:

August 3, 2012 – Canada 2-0 Great Britain – London 2012 Olympics quarter-final