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Chalk up another honour for Jessie Fleming.

In the absence of Christine Sinclair, the 23-year-old midfielder from London, Ont., will captain Canada against host England on Thursday at the Arnold Clark Cup. The 38-year-old Sinclair, the world’s all-time leading goal-scorer, is not with the team owing to the recent death of her mother.

“Jesse’s very similar to Christine in her leadership,” Canada coach Bev Priestman told a virtual availability Wednesday. “She leads by example. She’ll be the hardest-working player on that pitch.”

Thursday’s match sees the sixth-ranked Canadians face No. 8 England. No. 3 Germany meets No. 9 Spain to kick off the doubleheader at Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough.

While it marks the first time Fleming serves as skipper with the senior side, she captained Canada at the 2013 CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship and 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup under Priestman.

“Definitely a little bit taken aback. It’s a big honour,” Fleming said of getting the captain’s armband. “But I think for me, I’m just not wanting to do anything differently and just playing with my heart like I always do and working hard for the team. Just being positive on the pitch and trying to raise my teammates up [Thursday], just helping us focus on our game plan.”

Fleming has already won 94 caps for Canada and helped England’s Chelsea fill its trophy cabinet.

“It’s a huge honour for Jessie, I know, to represent her country,” Priestman said. “So I’m really proud of her and where she’s been and where she’s going.”

Canada Soccer says Fleming will lead the team out Thursday, with captain duties for the next two matches to be announced later. Sophie Schmidt (209 caps), Desiree Scott (171 caps), Erin McLeod (119 caps), Janine Beckie (83 caps), Shelina Zadorsky (77 caps) and Quinn (73 caps) — who goes by one name — are other veteran options.

Fleming, along with Sinclair, and fellow Canadian Ashley Lawrence, was on the 20-woman short list for the 2021 Ballon d’Or but did not make the five finalists. Awarded by France Football magazine, the Ballon d’Or is presented annually to the world’s top soccer player.

Fleming was named Canada Soccer Player of the Year in 2021 after leading Canada in matches, starts and minutes played while tied for the lead in goals scored.

She helped Chelsea win the FA Women’s Super League, FA Cup and FA League Cup as well as reach the 2020-21 Champions League final. Fleming was named the Barclays FA Women’s Super League player of the month for November.

After England, the Canadians face No. 3 Germany on Sunday in Norwich and No. 9 Spain next Wednesday in Wolverhampton.

Priestman calls the four-team tournament “the start of a new journey” for her Olympic champion side.

The Canadians are gearing up for CONCACAF’s W Championship, set for July in Monterrey, Mexico. That will serve as a qualifier for the 2023 Women’s World Cup with the winner also earning an automatic berth in the 2024 Olympics in France.

Priestman says her team is up to the new challenge.

“Every player, I can feel that hunger and desire,” she said. “But I think secondly we’ve definitely addressed, I guess, the new vision — where we’re heading. And probably more importantly what it’s going to take to get there.

“We climbed an unbelievable mountain in the Olympic Games. But what we have to do now is come off that mountain. We can’t stand still. We have to go and climb a completely different mountain that’s going to take new things, potentially new players or new versions of the players that we have.

“So it’s been really a sort of get-to-work camp. And I think you’ll see that and feel that on the pitch.”

First time call-ups include midfielder Marie-Yasmine Alidou (SK Sturm Graz, Austria), forward Tanya Boychuk (University of Memphis) and goalkeeper Devon Kerr (Washington Spirit, NWSL). Forward Cloe Lacasse (Benfica, Portugal) and midfielder Victoria Pickett (Kansas City Current, NWSL) have been called up for the second time.

Sinclair was missing through injury in February, 2021, at the SheBelieves Cup, when Priestman made her coaching debut with Canada. Priestman says the Tokyo Olympics proved that the talismanic captain didn’t have to have “the game of her life” and could just focus on her job because she had a talented supporting cast around her.

“This team is much more than Christine now. I think that’s really important and she would say that,” Priestman said. “Definitely this team is ready to step up.”

Canada has won its past two games against England, most recently in a 2-0 victory last April in Stoke, and three of its past four. Canada tied Britain 1-0 in group play at the Tokyo Olympics.

Priestman played down those recent wins, saying there was an “interim mindset” in the England camp at the time.

“I expect a tougher test than the last two times we’ve played them,” she said.

The Canada coach also pointed out that half of her team is just starting training camp in North America.

“Do I think we’re going to come in and steamroll this competition? Absolutely not. At the same time, this team steps up when it really matters.

“It won’t be perfect. And we’ll grow through the tournament,” she added. “There’ll be some great moments, there’ll be tough moments.”

England, under new coach Sarina Wiegman, has won all six games to date in a World Cup qualifying group that features No. 21 Austria, No. 46 Northern Ireland, No. 112 Latvia, No. 118 Luxembourg, and No. 131 North Macedonia. The Lionesses resume World Cup qualifying play in April.

England is coming off a 20-0 rout of Latvia last November.

England’s biggest-ever competitive victory saw Ellen White score a hat trick and become the Lionesses’ all-time leading goal-scorer. The 32-year-old Manchester City striker has 48 goals in 101 appearances for England, surpassing Kelly Smith’s record of 46.

The Canadian women have been training at St. George’s Park, the English Football Association’s national football centre in Burton-upon-Trent, northeast of Birmingham.

Thursday’s game represents a homecoming of sorts for the 35-year-old Priestman, who grew up just outside Newcastle and was part of the England FA’s coaching staff.