Canada is ranked ahead of the three teams – two of whom it has a winning record against – it will face at home in the opening round of next year’s International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Women’s World Cup.
That’s the good news.
On the down side, the national team has just one win in the last two World Cups and no victories against European teams, conceding 29 goals while scoring six in seven matches. In addition, Canada has posted two wins in its last eight contests, including friendlies and the Cyprus Cup tournament in Nicosia.
Ranked eighth in the world, Canada is in the same group with 14th ranked China, the Netherlands which is ranked 15th and New Zealand, which is 19th in the world.
“Our group is not an easy one, but it’s not a hard one either for us,” said coach John Herdman. “I think, if anything, it’s a group we can finish (on) top of. Those teams are ranked lower than us. We know that they have progressed in the last few years, but they are teams we have had positive results against in the last three years in my tenure. We have beaten all three of those teams and I think that’s an exciting thing for us to know that we go into it with our destiny in our hands to some degree with no excuses.”
The tournament starts on June 6 with Canada playing China at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton in the first game of a double header.
“We have played a couple of games against China and they are a young team with an average age of around 24, 25,” said Herdman. “They have been evolving in the last three years with a new coach and I think he’s developing a really technically sound game. They are getting more competitive and more resilient and so I think with an extra six months of planning and what the Chinese can do, – they typically have their players in-house training together every single day which you cannot deny is a great recipe for preparation – they will be ready. We will also be ready for them and it’s going to be a great game.”
Canada has defeated the Chinese in their last four meetings, scoring eight goals while conceding three. Overall, Canada has five wins in 24 meetings against the Chinese since 1986.
Herdman was surprised on learning that Canada has never beaten a European side at the World Cup, even though it boasts seven victories in eight contests against the Dutch.
“That’s something for the players and the staff to go against,” he said. “The Dutch are one of the most improved teams over the last four years. They have got real pace and they are a dark horse. They are certainly, for me, the team in the group that I will be a little bit concerned about. It’s a team that can push deep into the tournament.”
Seeking its third title, top-ranked United States is grouped with Sweden, which is ranked fifth in the world, African champions Nigeria and 19th-ranked Australia. This is considered the group of death.
Herdman is excited that Canada is not in that group and that he will coach against New Zealand, which he guided for five years before being recruited by Canada.
“I was hoping that was going to happen,” he said. “I have only coached two groups of players in the women’s game. The New Zealand girls meant a lot to me and to be able to share a moment with Canada is going to be really cool.”
Defending champions Japan is in Group “C” with Cameroon, Ecuador and Switzerland and two-time winners Germany has drawn the Ivory Coast, Norway and Thailand.
Brazil, the runner-up in the 2007 tournament in China, is in Group “E” with Korea Republic, Spain and Costa Rica and Group “F” comprises France, England, Mexico and Colombia.
Despite a tough draw, Nigeria’s coach, Edwin Okon, said his team will be ready for the challenge.
“There is no group that is simple,” he said. “Every group is tough and every team is good. We will set a target for ourselves. We will need to work hard to get to the level we want to at this tournament.”