Canada Expecting Physical Challenge Against Nigeria In World Cup Opener
After much excitement and counting down the days, the Canadian Women’s National team begins their World Cup challenge in Melbourne this Friday afternoon.
“I think we feel ready and excited,” Bev Priestman said at the MD-1 press conference at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
“It’s where we want to be and honestly I have been waiting for the past three days to get this match underway.”
Canada faces quite a foe in Nigeria, who they played twice last year, earning a win and a draw in Canada. It’s a country that faces similar financial issues with its federation.
The Nigerian players had come out and said that the federation was refusing to pay bonuses, and it got to a point where the players spoke about a potential boycott in the first game.
I had the opportunity to ask Priestman about what it will take to stop the likes of Asisat Oshoala.
“I think we have to constantly know where she is in terms of threatening behind, and particularly when they win the ball and break on transition. Nigeria is a great team, but we are well-prepared for what they are going to bring and just bring our identity to the game.”
There was a bit of a scare this week when Jessie Fleming showed up to training, spoke to Priestman and the training staff, and sat out one practice, but she was back today and looks ready to go.
“Jesse trained today so we should have a full squad available for the game,” confirmed Priestman.
Veteran Christine Sinclair, who was also at the MD-1 press conference, was asked about the solidarity and the players on both teams facing similar issues.
“The world of women’s football is very small,” Sinclair answered. “We all support each other and each women’s team has to face its battles. We fully support them. Each player deserves equal treatment from its federations.”
Sinclair was also asked about the deal she wanted in place before the tournament started and confirmed to the media it is basically completed in that regard.
“It’s done, and we are not focused on it anymore. It’s about to get done and we haven’t thought of it for one second these past couple of weeks as we focus on playing.”
Sinclair also gave us her assessment of Nigeria after playing against them last year.
“They are a world-class side with world-class talent, and we need to finish our chances. We are going to have chances. It’s about putting the ball into the back of the net. It’s the opening game, so you want to settle and play your game and limit their chances on transition, which is where they can hurt us.”
Priestman touched on the point that Nigeria are a very physical team and how Canada plans to match it.
“You look at our DNA and I honestly think physicality is a big part of our game, too. We need to impose and be ready for that, but the message is to stay out of the chaos and bring that level of composure.”
Coming into this World Cup, Canada aren’t the favorites despite winning Olympic Gold in Tokyo. Sinclair spoke about coming in not as a favourite, but a team that is overlooked.
“It doesn’t change a thing: around the world, we are still overlooked which is fine by us. We were overlooked going into Tokyo and we showed the world what we are capable of and it helped us as a team feel that confidence that we can beat any team in the world.”
Priestman also spoke about Deanne Rose and Nichelle Prince, who came back from serious injuries and will be ready to go come Friday afternoon.
“Deanne is obviously ahead of Nichelle in terms of timelines, and both have come in and looked outstanding – they have exceeded expectations.”
Finally, Priestman was asked about the worries of a first group stage game performance versus getting the right result no matter what.
“The aim is to get three points. To be honest, the first game is never perfect and our aim will be to go through the tournament and learn from every game and get better. That’s what we did previously and we found a way to win so we will be absolutely doing everything to win.”