June 11, 2021 — Estadio Cartagonova, Cartagena, Spain
(11 am ET/8 am PT)
Watch Live: OneSoccer.ca
The Canadian women’s team takes on the Czech Republic on Friday in the first of two tune-up matches just six weeks from their Olympic opener against the host Japan.
Bev Priestman’s group has set up shop in Cartagena, Spain for their training camp and the two friendlies — the second set for Tuesday against Brazil — in what will be their final preparations for the Tokyo games.
Canada has never played the Czech Republic before in a women’s international match who currently sits 19 places behind them in the FIFA World Rankings at 27th.
Les Rouges most recently played a pair of friendlies back in April against Wales and England, coming out on top 3-0 and 2-0 respectively.
With little opportunity for competitive fixtures in recent times, Priestman has called a strong squad to Spain to help her better assess the group with just 18 spaces available on the Olympic roster.
Injuries have been something of an unfortunate theme for the CanWNT in 2021 but luckily goalkeepers Kailen Sheridan and Sabrina D’Angelo, fullback Bianca St-Georges and forward Adriana Leon will all get their opportunity to impress after being sidelined for Canada’s two most recent matches.
Potential debutants within the squad include St-Georges as well as Benefica forward Cloé Lacasse, who was named to the recent April camp but has yet to be capped at the senior level.
In Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt, Desiree Scott and Erin McLeod however, the group is far from lacking in previous experience —the four combining for 772 caps for Canada.
With a mix of veterans and youthful exuberance, you can be sure several Canadians will be laying it all on the line against the Czechs.
Friendly or not, for many on the cusp of cracking the Olympic roster, this is the last chance to shine ahead of Tokyo.
3 THINGS TO LOOK FOR
- Who’s Canada’s No. 1 keeper?: After Kailen Sheridan went down injured just moments into Canada’s SheBelieves Cup opener against the United States, 34-year-old Stephanie Labbé assumed the role for the rest of the tournament and for both of their April friendlies. With Sheridan back fit for this camp, does Priestman go back to her preferred starter against the Americans? Or does she ride the hot hand in veteran Labbé? These two matches could be vital in deciding who’s in goal against Japan come July.
- No Sinclair, no party?: Sinclair has been Mrs. Reliable for this team in the past two decades to the tune of 186 goals. The concern is at this stage of her career, is it fair to rely on the 37-year-old to carry the goalscoring load on her own in Tokyo? With limited roster slots available, Priestman will need to be creative in how she creates depth in all positions on the field. With that said, if any of Canada’s other attacking options can find the back of the net more than once in this pair of friendlies, it would be hard to pass up on the added firepower this group has often lacked in recent memory. Big opportunities could come Viens, Huitema or perhaps even Lacasse’s way.
- Kadeisha Buchanan returns: Buchanan has returned to the women’s national team setup for the first time under Bev Priestman, her most recent action for Canada being at Concacaf Olympic Qualifying in February 2020. The Olympique Lyonnais defender is, nonetheless, probably Canada’s best defender, and it’s been unfortunate that various circumstances have kept her out of the previous two camps. It seems likely that Priestman will reunite the centre-back pairing of Buchanan and Shelina Zadorsky, but the strong performances of Vanessa Gilles and Gabrielle Carle in recent games might make selecting a backline a little more difficult than previously thought.