World

Team Canada feeling confident heading into first FIFA World Cup match

In the middle of a sprawling Melbourne suburb, there’s a rectangular soccer field called Olympic Park. It was built for the 1956 Games and it’s also where Team Canada has been holding training sessions ahead of their opening FIFA World Cup match.

First to arrive on the pitch are a handful of training staff. While setting up equipment and mapping out drills, they loudly play pop music from a tucked-away sound system.

Next comes 37-year-old Bev Priestman, who has been the head coach of the women’s national soccer team since October 2020

“We are out here trying to keep things fresh,” said Preistman. “We enjoy this and we are also very much focused on the process.”

Once Priestman is settled, the players make their way to the field, and as they do, they look comfortable and confident.

“I am not sure the whole world sees us where we should be seen, and that is fine because that drives the team.”

Team Canada’s head coach, Bev Priestman, leads one of the women’s last training sessions before taking on Nigeria in their opening. (Melanie Nagy / CTV News)

Altogether, there are 23 women representing Canada on the FIFA world stage. The roster is a mix of veterans, like Captain Christine Sinclair, and young footballers, such as 18-year-old Olivia Smith.

“What we know from the Olympics is that you take one game and you grow from it and you get better and better,” said Priestman.

The team won gold for Canada at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but heading into this event, they are currently ranked seventh in the world.

“We are really excited to get going and we are ready for the tournament to start,” said starting goalkeeper, Kailen Sheridan.

Sheridan, who grew up in Whitby, Ont., says the squads’ expectations are high. She also says the team is fully aware that the competition is stiff.

This will be the first FIFA Women’s World Cup to include 32 teams, which is a substantial increase in players since the last tournament in 2019, which was held in France.

“We want to see growth in our sport and we want to see that competitiveness,” said Sheridan during practice. “We also as a team want to go all the way.”

Starting goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, who grew up in Whitby, Ont., speaks to media after practice in Melbourne. (Melanie Nagy / CTV News)

While the women are the reigning Olympic champions, they have yet to win a World Cup. Their best placement so far was back in 2003 when they finished fourth out of 16 teams.

“We have always underperformed at the World Cup, but we know what we are capable of and we know what our goals are,” said midfielder Sophie Schmidt.

When the tournament kicks off, Canada will be in Group B, which also includes Australia, Ireland and Nigeria, the team they will play first.

“I think this team does an excellent job staying present in the moment,” said Schmidt, “We also need to get the job done on day one to set us up for success.”

Midflielder Sophie Schmidt takes a break from training to discuss her team’s expectations ahead of their first World Cup game. (Melanie Nagy / CTV News)


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