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Canada’s Olympic champion women’s soccer and hockey teams were arguably the country’s biggest stories in Tokyo and Beijing, respectively.
They’re both in action this weekend, along with another promising national team. Here’s what you should know:
The game we’ve all been waiting for at the world championships is finally going down on Sunday. Hopefully.
After neither Canada nor the U.S. received much of a scare in the quarter-finals, they’ll return for semifinal matchups on Saturday that don’t appear too frightening either. The Canadians will meet a Swiss side at 12 p.m. ET that played tough in a 4-1 loss to Canada earlier in the tournament, but may be without captain Lara Stalder and top scorer Alina Müller because of COVID-19. The Americans face the Czech Republic, who upset Finland in the quarter-finals.
Barring something extraordinary, Canada and the U.S. will play for gold on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET. The Americans won their round-robin game 5-2, scoring the final five goals after Canada opened an early lead. The U.S. has generally looked like the stronger team throughout the tournament in Denmark, having scored 20 more goals than Canada while allowing only four through five games. Its power play is clicking at nearly double the rate of Canada’s. Forward Taylor Heise, making her major international tournament debut for the U.S., leads all skaters with 13 points.
WATCH | Potomak’s goal helps Canada see off Sweden en route to semis:
One more stat in the Americans’ favour: the winner of the group-stage battle between the teams has also won gold at each of the last three major tournaments. Plus, they may have a chip on their shoulder after Canada reclaimed both the Olympic and world titles in the past year.
Canada, as evidenced by its relative lack of offence, has missed the presence of Natalie Spooner (pregnant) and Mélodie Daoust (injured) up front and Claire Thompson (skipping tournament to prepare for medical school) on the blueline. But the starpower remains in the form of Captain Clutch Marie-Philip Poulin and team-leading scorer Sarah Fillier. And here’s where we place the caveat that it’s one game and anything can happen — especially when it’s these two teams with a gold medal on the line.
The stakes are a little lower for Canada’s women’s soccer team, which is on the road for a pair of friendlies against Australia over the next five days. The first game is tonight at 12:45 a.m. ET and the second is Tuesday at 5:40 a.m. ET.
While seventh-ranked Canada expects a stiff challenge from No. 12 Australia, it also hopes the experience of heading Down Under and acclimatizing to the conditions now pays dividends when it returns in about 10 months for the 2023 World Cup.
The Canadian roster is absent a few familiar faces from Tokyo. Missing, for various reasons, are defender Kadeisha Buchanan, forward Deanne Rose and fullbacks Vanessa Gilles, Ashley Lawrence and Jayde Riviere. So while coach Bev Priestman may not be able to roll out her preferred starting XI, she’ll get a look at some different combinations and younger players like 18-year-old midfielder Simi Awujo, who could earn her first national-team cap. Read more about the upcoming friendlies in this piece by CBC Sports soccer expert John Molinaro.
Due to a rules quirk, Canada’s women’s 3×3 basketball team was unable to even attempt to play its way into Tokyo 2020. Instead, the men’s team was awarded the opportunity to qualify but failed. Now, the women appear to be taking out that frustration across the globe. They started their year with a silver medal at the World Cup in France, and only took off from there. Over two World Series stops in Edmonton and Romania, Canada went undefeated en route to a pair of gold medals.
The team of Katherine and Michelle Plouffe, Paige Crozon and Kacie Bosch is back together in Montreal this weekend for the last regular-season World Series event ahead of the eight-team final in mid-September, for which Canada has already qualified. Canada started group play this afternoon with a win against Hungary, and next meets the Netherlands in a game beginning at 4:15 p.m. ET. The knockout rounds take place across about four hours tomorrow beginning at 6:35 p.m. ET.