The Chronicle Herald (Metro)

Canadian women open against hosts


Canada does not have the luxury of easing its way into the women's Olympic soccer tournament with a game against host Japan to kick off the event.

Canada face Japan on Wednesday (Thursday 7:30 a.m., AT) at the Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, Japan, in its first group game of the 12-team tournament. The Canadian women's national team is looking to improve on backto-back bronze-medal performanc­es in the previous two Olympics in Rio and London, respective­ly.

The women's soccer tournament is among the first events to open the 2020 Tokyo Games, postponed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic, and starts two days before the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo on Friday.

“We're here to win; I think that's what any competitiv­e player wants, and we have world-class, high-performing players who want to win,” said Canada head coach Bev Priestman on Tuesday. “They've been very clear they want to change the colour of the medal from bronze to gold. That's ultimately what we want to achieve.

“For us, it'll be how we approach the tournament; six games in 18 days, in difficult playing conditions. We've been talking about the depth, and using that well will stand us in good stead to do that. But I really believe on any given day, if we turn up and we're ready, we can do that.”

Canada is grouped with Japan, Chile and Great Britain at the Tokyo Games and need to finish among the top two, or as one of the two best thirdplace teams to advance to the quarter-finals.

Canada play Chile on Saturday in Sapporo, and conclude the group stage against Great Britain on July 27 at the Kashima Stadium in Kashima, Japan.

Priestman has selected a strong team for the Olympic tournament, and understand­s it will be challenge to just get into the knockout stage of the tournament.

Japan, along with the United States, are favourites to win gold, while Great Britain features a team made up prominentl­y of players in the England Women's Super League.

Chile, meanwhile, is one of the best teams in South America, with possibly the best goalkeeper in the world in Christiane Endler of Olympique Lyonnais in France, arguably the best women's club team of all time.

Priestman believes adaptabili­ty is the key to Canada's success at the Olympics. The tournament will be played in empty stadiums, which is an advantage to Canada facing Japan, not having to play in front of a hostile crowd.

“I think adapting to this particular Olympics of the reality of what we're living, which is the really stringent COVID protocols, which is very different to previous Olympics,” Priestman said. “That's the major one in terms of fans, but I also think adapt to the heat, climate and a different opponent. I think you have to adapt quickly, grow quickly and go through the tournament.

“I think on many levels this particular Olympics will be about adapting on the field and off the field.”

Canada is led by veteran Christine Sinclair, 38, who is playing in her fourth Olympics and is the all-time leading internatio­nal goal scorer with 186 goals for her country. Sinclair will be playing her 300th game for Canada on Wednesday, and is competing in likely her last Olympic tournament.

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