Injury bug creates opportunity for Canadian WNT ahead of World Cup prep friendlies


For a second consecutive international window, the injury bug has hit the Canadian women’s team pretty hard as it continues to prepare for the 2023 FIFA World Cup. 

Canada will face Argentina on Oct. 6 and Morocco on Oct. 10, with both matches taking place at Estadio Municipal de Chapín in Jerez, Spain. But when the Canadians take to the pitch for these friendlies, they’ll be without six members of the gold-medal team from the Tokyo Olympics due to injuries: iconic captain Christine Sinclair, centre back Vanessa Gilles, fullbacks Ashley Lawrence, Jayde Riviere and Gabrielle Carle, and forward Deanne Rose.

Both Gilles and Lawrence missed Canada’s pair of wins over Australia in exhibition games last month. But the defensive pair, as well as Sinclair and Carle, should return to action soon. More good news for the Canadian team is the return from injuries of veterans Kadeisha Buchanan and Allysha Chapman, who have been called up by coach Bev Priestman this month after being unavailable against Australia. 

However, the prognosis is not so promising for Rose (ruptured Achilles) and Riviere (hip), who are expected to be sidelined for several months. Questions remain as to whether Rose will be able to recover in time for next summer’s World Cup, which will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

“I think it’s really difficult to say at this point. Knowing Deanne, her determination, athleticism and the support that we’ll put around her to make sure Deanne is part of that World Cup squad. I’d like to think so,” Priestman stated.

‘Next player up’ mentality

But rather than bemoan her players’ bad luck with injuries, Priestman is keen to take the lemons she’s been given and make lemonade. She will use this month’s international window to give playing time and opportunities to others who aren’t regular starters, all with an eye toward strengthening the team’s overall depth going into the World Cup. 

“What I’ve got to do is be sure that with whatever positions have injuries that we’ve got the next [player] ready to go. What you’ll see and sense is trying to get an understanding of what that depth is with very little time to the World Cup,” Priestman explained.

Priestman already started to lay the groundwork last month against the Australians. Midfielder Simi Awujo, 19, and forward Clarissa Larisey, 23, impressed so much in their respective national team debuts that they were recalled this month, and should be given more chances against Argentina and Morocco. 

Likewise, Jade Rose put in a fantastic display in only her third appearance for Canada. The 19-year-old centre back played with a maturity well beyond her years, setting up Adriana Leon’s winning goal in a 2-1 victory in Sydney, while also shutting down Australia’s Sam Kerr, regarded as one of the best forwards in the world.

WATCH | Rose sets up Leon’s 2nd goal:

Adriana Leon does all the scoring as Canada sweeps pair of friendlies in Australia

After scoring the lone goal in Canada’s 1-0 win over Australia in Brisbane on Saturday, Adriana Leon bagged a brace in Canada’s 2-1 victory in Sydney on Tuesday.

Opportunity for Viens

Perhaps, it’ll be Évelyne Viens who steps up this month. Viens, a 25-year-old Quebec native, earned her first cap last winter, and has scored twice in 10 games, and made a pair of appearances at the Olympics. 

But she has floated in and out of the Canadian roster since Tokyo. Viens was omitted from the squad for the trip to Australia, as well as this past summer’s CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico where Canada secured World Cup qualification.

Viens has been in a rich vein of form this season, scoring at steady pace while on loan at Swedish club Kristianstads DFF, while also developing her playmaking skills. With Sinclair and Rose ruled out for these next two contests, Viens has the perfect opportunity to remind Priestman what she can do and make a case for herself. 

“I’ve been trying to work on different areas of my game. Working with the coaches on my finishing, my touch, my creativity, my confidence, the mental side of the game, it has been great,” Viens recently told Radio-Canada

Priestman took notice of how Viens’ game has evolved in Sweden after a somewhat disappointing spell in the NWSL with Sky Blue FC, who have since been rebranded NJ/NY Gotham FC. 

“Her level of confidence from when we came back from the Olympic Games and she wasn’t playing in the NWSL [was low]. But you can see she’s a [forward] scoring with confidence now,” Priestman said. 

“So, all credit to Évelyne, she’s producing at the club level, and my challenge to Évelyne has always been – can you do it in our environment in the training sessions and the games? And I felt that in this European tour, with this level of opposition, this is a great opportunity for Évelyne to come back in… So, I’m really excited to have Évelyne back because she’s worked really hard to get where she’s gotten to.”

Canada is No. 7 in the current FIFA world rankings. Argentina is 31st and Morocco is 76th, and both nations have qualified for the 2023 FIFA World Cup. 

Canada has won all five of its previous matches with Argentina, outscoring the South Americans 12-1. Canada earned a 1-0 win in its last meeting against Argentina on Feb. 21, 2021 at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando. Canada has met Morocco twice before, with both games taking place in February 2001. Canada won the opener 4-0 before losing the rematch 1-0 two days later.

The Canadian women’s team sports a 10-2-3 record this year, with the losses coming against the U.S. in Concacaf W Championship final and Spain at the Arnold Clark Cup in February. 

Canada’s group stage opponents for next summer’s FIFA World Cup will be determined during the official draw on Oct. 22 in Auckland.

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