Canada’s Progress at the FIFA Women’s World Cup

5 Memorable FIFA World Cup Moments

Canada’s Women’s Soccer Team arrived in Australia with high hopes as the reigning Olympic Women’s gold medallists. The Canucks’ campaign started at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on June 21, against an unfancied Nigerian team. Five days later the team took on a gutsy Republic of Ireland outfit at the NIB stadium in Perth.

Many pundits predicted Canada’s final group match against the co-hosts Australia would decide Group B.

Canada head coach, Bev Priestman, named an experienced squad for the World Cup. It included 15 players that won gold at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago. Would that experience stand the players in good stead? Would the three-year wait for a World Cup have come too late?

As far back as January 2023, the Canucks drew some support from bookmakers. Odds of +2500 were available to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup on both older and new betting sites prior to the start of the event, and they were given a roughly 50-50 chance of reaching the quarter-finals. Canada was the 9th favourite, just below its Australian group opponents.

Canada's Progress at the FIFA Women's World Cup

Let’s run through Canada’s World Cup matches so far to see if these odds are justified:

July 21: Nigeria vs. Canada (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium)

An air of expectation greeted the Canadians as they took the park in Melbourne. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be the grand entrance many expected, though. Although the Canucks dominated possession and strung together twice as many passes, the ball wouldn’t end in the Nigerian net.

Canada’s strikers didn’t have their shooting boots on.  The team only managed three out of 16 shots on target with one penalty saved by Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie. Christine Sinclair, in the 48th minute, had a chance to be the first player to score at six different World Cups, but came up short with her spot kick.

It was the best chance of the match, with the resulting 0-0 stalemate difficult for a dominant Canada to take. Hence, only one point taken from Nigeria. With the Africans considered the weakest in Group B, the path to the knockout stages had become more difficult for the Canucks.

Bookmakers would expect an improved performance against the Irish in Canada’s second match.

July 26: Canada vs. Republic of Ireland (Perth Rectangular “NIB” Stadium)

After the draw with Nigeria, Bev Priestman made two changes to the starting lineup against the Irish Republic. Jessie Fleming returned from injury with Evelyne Viens replacing the luckless Christine Sinclair.

The changes didn’t transform Canada’s fortunes right away. Four minutes after kick-off, Irish captain, Katie McCabe swung in a corner that caught Kailen Sheridan off balance. The ball nestled into the far corner of the Canadian net. 1-0 Republic of Ireland.

This was the first time since 2011 that Canada had conceded a goal in the first half of a World Cup match.

Following the goal, the match was a close one, with Ireland slightly dominant. It took about 20 minutes before Canada’s superior possession started working for them and the breakthrough finally came. Right on half time Irish defender Megan Connolly deflected the ball into her own net. Canada’s equilizer saw the teams level at 1-1 at the interval.

Sinclair was among three half-time changes for Canada. The substitutions made an immediate impact, and it wasn’t long before the Canucks turned the match on its head. In the 53rd minute, Adriana Leon coolly finished off substitute Sophie Schmidt’s assist. This put Canada ahead for the first time and the travelling support into raptures.

The Irish needed a positive result to keep their World Cup hopes alive. Canada defended stoically and the women in green had few chances on goal. Meanwhile, the Canucks created more chances of their own. By the time the final whistle sounded, the pre-match favourites were worthy 2-1 winners.

With four points from two matches, Canada knew they would need a draw against Australia in the final Group B match. Without it, permutations for progression into the second round could be complicated.

July 31: Canada vs. Australia (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium)

Bev Priestman kept her aces well hidden by making only one change to the team that played the Republic of Ireland. The coach gave Christine Sinclair another chance to get that elusive goal by restoring her to the starting lineup. With a spot in the knockout stage at stake for both teams, nerves would undoubtedly be a factor.

From the kickoff, Canada looked more creative early on than in the previous matches. The team was pinging its passes and looked most likely to make an early breakthrough. The ghosts of Ireland past would ultimately come back to haunt them, though.

On six minutes, a quick break down the left by the hosts resulted in a goal by Hayley Raso. Again, the Canucks found themselves behind early. 1-0 Australia.

Canada dominated possession as they looked for a way back into the game. Besides a few half chances, Canada struggled to find shots on goal. Jessie Fleming caused problems for the Matildas with her crosses, but the finishing was letting the team down.

On 37 minutes, VAR reversed a second goal by Australia. Within two minutes, the ball was in Canada’s net again. This time the goal did count, with Hayley Raso scoring her second.  When halftime arrived, Australia led 2-0 and hearts of Canadian supporters and bettors alike were sinking.

Canada’s World Cup hopes hung by a thread. It appeared the home Australian crowd was unsettling the Canucks and their play was suffering. Priestman had to change the tide. The coach made four halftime changes, with Sinclair among those withdrawn. Her departure was likely the end of her last chance for that record-breaking World Cup goal.

Unlike in the match against the Irish, Priestman’s changes didn’t make the desired impact. Australia attacked with more purpose, and it seemed only a matter of time before the Matildas breached Canada’s defence again. In the 58th minute, the breakthrough came. Mary Fowler made it 3-0, dashing any hopes of a Canadian recovery.

The Canucks battled on, with chances first from Rose and then Schmidt, but at this stage the soccer gods were smiling on Australia alone.

Then, in second-half stoppage time, Jessie Fleming brought down Katrina Gorry in the box. Stephanie Catley blasted home the penalty to nail shut the door on Canada’s World Cup progression. The 4-0 win to Australia meant the Canucks’ dream was over for at least four more years.

What Does Canada’s World Cup 2023 Performance Mean for the Team and Her Bettors?

Canada has failed to progress from a World Cup group stage for the first time since 2011. This result could have dire implications for both coach and squad.

We’ll wait to hear from head coach, Bev Priestman about her intentions for the future. She might come under pressure from many quarters due to the tournament’s results, though. Moving to the players, Christine Sinclair is already 40, and Allysha Chapman and Sophie Schmidt are well into their 30s. With this in mind, there will likely be some international retirements along the way too.

It’s disappointing that Canadian bettors cannot back the Canucks in the World Cup any longer. As Nigeria have already shown, though, there are still plenty of other outside options if you’re looking for some longer odds to back.

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