The Canadian women look to end a turbulent SheBelieves Cup on a winning note Wednesday when they take on No. 11 Japan in Frisco, Tex.
For head coach Bev Priestman, it’s one more chance to test new partnerships and young talent on the pitch ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The sixth-ranked Canadians enter play Wednesday in second place in the tournament standings, above No. 9 Brazil on goal difference.
The top-ranked U.S. plays Brazil in the nightcap at Toyota Stadium, needing a win or a draw to win the tournament for a fourth consecutive year and the sixth time over all.
Under the cloud of their continuing labour dispute with Canada Soccer, the Canadian women lost 2-0 to the U.S. in Orlando last Thursday before bouncing back to defeat Brazil 2-0 in Nashville on Sunday.
Japan lost 1-0 to both Brazil and the U.S.
“They’ll be resolute. They’ll be hard to break down,” Priestman said of Japan. “But I also think we’ll have to be patient and disciplined in the way that we defend. The minute you start chasing things independently as a group, they have the quality to break you down.”
It’s the first meeting of the two since a 1-1 tie in Canada’s tournament opener at the Tokyo Olympics in July, 2021. Japan made it to the quarter-finals in Tokyo before losing 2-1 to eventual runner-up Sweden.
Japan has changed coaches since then. Current coach Futoshi Ikeda favours a back five, the same defensive formation that Canada expects to see from Ireland at this summer’s World Cup.
“It’s going to be good for us to test that,” Priestman said.
The Canadian women are 4-7-4 all-time against Japan.
Priestman said one player will undergo a fitness test Wednesday morning ahead of the game. She did not identify the player.
Quinn, a midfielder who goes by one name, did not dress for the Brazil game because of illness.
Priestman, who used all her substitutes in the first two games of the tournament, said she planned to give Gabrielle Carle and Clarissa Larissey playing time Wednesday. They are the only two outfield players yet to see the field at the tournament.
Carle has been managing an injury but could play Wednesday, Priestman said.
Earlier Tuesday, Canada Soccer announced the Canadian women will face fifth-ranked France in Le Mans during the April FIFA international window. The April 11 game is to take place at Marie-Marvingt Stadium.
The Canadian women want the same backing and preparation ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as the men did before Qatar. Both women’s and men’s teams also want Canada Soccer to open its books and to explain why their programs are being cut in 2023.
The women refused to train in advance of the SheBelieves Cup, only to be forced back to the field by threats of legal action by Canada Soccer, which said they were not in a legal position to strike. That should not be the case come April.
The Canadians came out flat in the opening loss to the U.S. But they rebounded strongly against Brazil, a team that has punished Canada on the counterattack in past games.
“We adapted some things and we learned from it,” said Priestman. “I’m really pleased with how the team came out to get that two-goal [lead] up a Brazil team that’s very, very dangerous.”
Canada is making its second appearance in the SheBelieves Cup after finishing third in 2021 in Priestman’s debut as coach.