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2019 World Cup Preview: Canada

Uncertain expectations.

England Women v Canada Women - International Friendly Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

2015 should have been the year. As the hosts, with their country behind them, Canada were unconvincing in the group stage, winning their group with just one win, five points, and a +1 goal differential. They beat Switzerland 1-0 to advance to the quarterfinals, but lost 2-1 to England, ending their hopes of winning on home soil. Since then they’ve gotten younger, and they have a new coach after John Herdman left to [checks notes] coach the Canadian men. They haven’t lost since October 2018, but they scored just one goal, a Christine Sinclair penalty against Scotland, in three Algarve Cup matches, and only managed a 2-1 win over Nigeria in April.

The Team

How They’ve Fared

This is Canada’s seventh World Cup. Their best finish was fourth place in 2003.

How They Qualified

Canada beat Panama in semifinals of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, qualifying for the World Cup before losing in the final to the United States.

Group

E, with Cameroon, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.

Player You Know

Christine. Sinclair. If you don’t know the name, you haven’t been paying attention. Her 181 goals in 281 international appearances has her second all time behind Abby Wambach’s 284, and I’d be shocked if she doesn’t at least equal the record in France. The 35-year-old, who plays for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, has scored on every continent except for Antarctica, and she’s one of the best to ever do it. She’d never tell you how good she is, but you should certainly watch her play do the talking this summer.

Player You’ll Know Soon

It feels strange to put Jessie Fleming’s name here, because it seems as though she’s been on the verge of shooting to stardom since she debuted for the senior team in 2013. Still just 21 years of age, the UCLA rising senior has an impressive resume. In three collegiate seasons, she’s tallied 22 goals and 18 assists, and guided the Bruins to the College Cup final in 2017, where they lost to the champions, Stanford. Internationally, she has scored eight times in 65 appearances and has won Olympic bronze, but I’ve expected more. Perhaps it’s unfortunate that Fleming will be linked with US attacker Mallory Pugh because they were in the same recruiting class at UCLA before Pugh turned pro. Fleming’s skills are unmatched within her team, and though she’s been showing her superiority at the college level, the time is now for her to show it against professionals.

World Cup Outlook

I am not sold on this Canadian team. They’ve scored eight goals in nine games in 2019, with three of those coming against CONCACAF also-ran Mexico. Maintaining that pace will not be enough to progress very far in France, though I believe they’ll have no trouble advancing to the knockout phase, and they’ll probably win their group. They’re in the odd position of perhaps wanting to finish second in that group though, because winning would see them face the Group D runners-up (Japan?), while finishing second would see them face Group F runners-up (Sweden?). I know who I’d rather play. With this influx of youth — three 18-year-olds and two 20-year-olds — it’s probably not fair to expect them to contend this year, and I don’t.