Fifa World Cup: Canada relaxing before first match

Melbourne, Australia –

Canada looked relaxed as they approached Wednesday’s FIFA Women’s World Cup opener against Nigeria, but several players appeared to be working at their own pace.

Midfielder Jesse Fleming was mostly a spectator during part of the morning’s practice, which was open to the media at his local football club. Forwards Dean Rose and Nichelle Prince, who have returned from Achilles tendon injuries, also trained independently under the guidance of their trainers.

Canada manager Bev Priestman downplayed the injury issue, saying “some players have their own plans”. “Today was a bright day and you could have seen Deanne and Nichelle working on rehab. So yeah, I think Jesse will be fine.”

I hope so.

Fleming is one of Canada’s most important cogs. The 25-year-old Chelsea midfielder makes things happen with 115 caps and 19 goals on his Canadian résumé, winning his third world cap.

The No. 7 Canadian will face No. 40 Nigeria on Thursday night (10:30 pm ET) at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.

Canada is plagued with injuries heading into the tournament. The hope was that the story would be completed.

Prince and Rose were racing against time to recover in time for the tournament. They made appearances, but veteran midfielder Desiree Scott (186 caps) was deemed not healthy enough to make the roster. Rising defender Jade Rose also had to sit out of pre-tournament training due to injury, while influential forward Janine Becky was sidelined after undergoing knee surgery in March.

Injuries slowed Canada’s momentum.

The Canadian women’s team were on a five-game winning streak heading into their 2022 finale when Prince was stretchered off a 2-1 loss to Brazil in Sao Paulo in November.

“My teammate is gone. We are united. I want us to be united,” Priestman told the team at the post-match gathering after the game against Brazil.

Canada went 3-1 this year and scored just 3 goals. Three of those games were played at the SeeBelieves Cup in the United States in February, when an ongoing labor dispute with Canadian football clouded the players’ concentration.

With a provisional deal covering World Cup compensation almost complete, Canada’s Brain Trust hoped the lengthy pre-tournament training camp in Australia would get the team back on its feet again. Concerns about Fleming and question marks over how many minutes Prince and Rose have left in the tournament are not doctor’s orders.

Despite this, the atmosphere during practice was bright.

The three goalkeepers were the first to appear on the field, nullifying several moves in keeping with Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ and S Club 7’s ‘S Club Party’.

“I’m really excited for the game,” said Canada’s No. 1 goalkeeper Kylen Sheridan. “We’ve been here for a couple of weeks now and I think the expectations are high. We’ve had a lot of fun so far, but there’s nothing better than playing a World Cup match.”

Priestman smiled broadly when he met the press.

“We are excited to be here and ready to go,” she said. “We’ve kept it fresh. I’ve talked a lot about being fresh and being fresh later in the tournament when it really matters. And everything we’ve done has been like that. Designed.

“So it’s absolutely fun to see them having fun and I think this team is at its best when they’re having fun.”

Asked about the pressures of being an Olympic champion going into a tournament, Priestman quoted his favorite trope.

“We talk about climbing mountains. We just take one step at a time,” she said. “I think we are very focused on the process. We enjoy the process. And what we know from the Olympics is that you play one game, you grow from it, you get better and better. .

“So for us, it’s not too much forward. Not too much looking back. We’re here now, one step at a time. The pressure, it’s new for this group. See? At the end of the day.” “I don’t know if the whole world will see us in the spotlight that day. That’s fine. In many ways, that’s what drives this team.”

The climb has been a recurring theme for Priestman since his victory at the Tokyo Olympics.

“When you get to the top of the mountain and look out, everything is great. But when you look back, it’s actually the climb that matters the most. From the moment the accident happened in Tokyo, we’ve achieved our goal.” I was aiming for small things to help.” And that will be the focus of this tournament.

“I haven’t played a lot lately. I’m just going to get better and better and learn from it (Game 1), so I’m definitely going to climb one step at a time, literally.”

The challenges of Canada’s Group B schedule grow with each match. After Nigeria, the Canadians will face 22nd-ranked Ireland and 10th-ranked Australia.

The top two teams in their group advance, and the pool winners are likely to avoid meeting reigning European champions No. 4 England in the round of 16.

Veteran midfielder Sophie Schmidt was the picture of a calm Wednesday despite admitting that the Canadian women’s team “always underperformed at the World Cup”.

“We know what we are capable of. We know what our goals are. We are very clear about it. I need to finish it,” she said. “So we are very focused on the Nigeria game.”

The Nigerians had their own problems ahead of the tournament, frustrated by the lack of support from the federation.

Since the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations began in 1991, Nigeria has won 11 out of 15 times. After winning their first seven tournaments, the Super Falcons didn’t drop a single point until the fourth tournament in 2000 and didn’t lose their first match until 2002.

However, Nigeria finished fourth in the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, losing to eventual runners-up Morocco on penalties in the semi-finals and losing 1-0 to Zambia in the third-place play-off. The top four teams qualified for the World Cup.

Nigeria qualified for all nine editions of the Football Showcase, as all other editions of the tournament act as World Cup qualifiers. However, the Super Falcons have only reached the knockout stages twice, losing to Brazil in the quarterfinals in 1999 and Germany in the round of 16 in 2019.

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