Soccer·Preview

Canadian WNT ready to seize opportunity at crucial CONCACAF W Championship

The exhibition matches and celebration tour that followed in the aftermath of the Canadian women's team's gold-medal victory at last summer's Tokyo Olympics are a thing of the past. Now it's time for Canada to shift gears and get down to serious business again.

Tournament serves as qualifiers for 2023 World Cup, Paris 2024, 2024 Gold Cup

Canada's Christine Sinclair (12) moves the ball past Nigeria's Toni Payne (7) during a celebration tour friendly on April 8 in Vancouver. The Canadian captain will lead the way as the women's team aims to secure triple qualification at the CONCACAF W Championship in Monterrey, Mexico. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The exhibition matches and celebration tour that followed in the aftermath of the Canadian women's team's gold-medal victory at last summer's Tokyo Olympics are a thing of the past. Now it's time for Canada to shift gears and get down to serious business again.

The CONCACAF W Championship in Monterrey, Mexico, which runs from July 4-18, is a crucially important tournament for Canada, as it serves as the qualifiers for the 2023 FIFA World Cup, while also offering one direct berth for the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

The Canadians, No. 6 in the current FIFA world rankings, kick off Group B action at the CONCACAF competition vs. Trinidad and Tobago (No. 76) on July 5, before taking on Panama (No. 57) on July 8, and wrapping up the first round vs. Costa Rica (No. 37) on July 11. Group A consists of the United States (No. 1), Mexico (No. 26), Jamaica (No. 51) and Haiti (No. 60).

CBC Sports will provide broadcast coverage of Canada's first two group stage matches on a delayed basis (12:30 a.m. local) and live coverage of the match against Costa Rica on CBC TV and CBC Gem.

The top two teams in both groups at the end of the round robin advance to the tournament semifinals and also earn automatic berths for next year's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The two third-place nations can still qualify for the World Cup via the inter-continental playoffs scheduled for Feb. 17-23, 2023.

Also, the winner of the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship will automatically qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics and next summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup. The runner-up and winner of the third-place match will face off in a playoff in September, 2023 to determine who'll clinch CONCACAF's other Olympic berth. The winner of that playoff also qualifies for the 2024 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

"There's a lot of pressure to win the tournament because that's the only way you can for sure qualify for both [the World Cup and Olympics]... It's a great opportunity to win the tournament and solidify those two things for us," Canadian forward Janine Beckie said.

WATCH l Triple qualification on the line for Canada at CONCACAF W Championship:

CanWNT heading to Mexico for World Cup 2023, Paris 2024 and Gold Cup 2024 qualification

1 month ago
Duration 1:50
Canada's national women's soccer team is heading to Monterrey, Mexico for the CONCACAF W Championship. If they win, they secure qualification to three major tournaments stretching to the summer of 2024.

On paper, Tuesday's contest between Canada and Trinidad and Tobago (10:00 p.m. ET) at Estadio BBVA is a major mismatch, and it could get very ugly if history is any indication. The Canadians have won all eight of their previous matches against the Trinidadians by a combined score of 34-0 dating back to their first meeting in 1991. In those eight games, Canada only twice failed to score at least four goals. 

The last time these nations met, six different players scored for Canada in a 6-0 victory on Feb. 14, 2016 in Houston at the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship. Ten players who featured for Canada in that match are on the current 23-member squad set to compete at the CONCACAF W Championship, including Beckie, captain Christine Sinclair and midfielder Jessie Fleming, who were among the goal-scorers that day.

Despite the Reds' domination of the Soca Warriors over the years, Beckie warns they are a quick team that can hurt opponents in moments of transition. That's something Canada will have to guard against, even as it expects to dictate matters during Tuesday's match and enjoy the majority of possession.

"We've always seen Trinidad as a powerful, fast, transition-based team. They have some good players in their attack, some really important players we'll have to shut down [on the counter-attack] in order to dominate the game. We have confidence that we'll have a lot of the ball. We have the ability to keep the ball, be on the ball, be confident on the ball, and that's something we want to go towards in this tournament," Beckie explained.

While coach Bev Priestman expects a tough contest, she feels the game could open up quite nicely on the attacking side for Canada should it score the opening goal, as Trinidad would then be forced to chase the game, thus leaving itself vulnerable at the back.

"They've scored goals in their qualification pre-tournament, and they've got some threats … They'll be well-organized, they'll be an attacking transition threat, they're very physical and direct in behind. We can't get carried away, we've got to respect the opposition that's in front of us," Priestman explained.

'This group can rise to anything'

Even though the reigning Olympic champions enter the tournament as one of the favourites, Priestman is taking nothing for granted going into the group stage. Canada is coming off a 0-0 draw to South Korea in an exhibition game on June 26 in Toronto, the team's lone tune-up match for the CONCACAF W Championship.

It was a game that saw the Canadians enjoy the lion's share of possession (67 per cent) while outshooting the Koreans by a 11-3 margin, but they were unable to break through the visitors' low defensive block. Scoring has been an issue for Canada in 2022, as it's only scored multiple goals in two of the six games it's played this year, while also being shut out on two occasions.

However, those were all friendlies and non-competitive games. Now that there are big stakes involved, Priestman expects her side to find its scoring touch, even if it doesn't happen right off the bat in this CONCACAF competition.

"This group will take every game as it comes. I know when it really matters this group can rise to anything. I just want the ball to roll on in Game 1, and we'll climb and we'll grow through the tournament," Priestman promised.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Molinaro

Freelance contributor

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for a number of media outlets, including CBC Sports, Sportsnet and Sun Media. During his time at CBC Sports, John travelled to South Africa to cover the 2010 FIFA World Cup for CBCSports.ca. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of the Canadian game.

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