Five goals, two wins, and two clean sheets: Not a bad two-game stint for the Canadian women’s national team. Coach Bev Priestman and her side closed out their Great Britain pre-Tokyo Olympics camp on a high Tuesday with a big 2-0 win over England – their first win against a “tier one” (to steal a line from Priestman) side in over two years. Canada previously opened their camp with a 3-0 over Wales in Cardiff on Friday. It was an impressive two-match stint, to say the least, capped by that England win. But what did we learn from these two games as the shadow of this Summer’s Olympics lurk in the background?
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Olympic squad closer to reality… or not?Canada’s two-game British set was an important part of Priestman’s Tokyo Olympic preparations, specifically determining who will make the 18-player roster. This camp – which happened without regular Canada standouts like Kadeisha Buchanan, Diana Matheson, and Adriana Leon – featured 26 players and only a handful didn’t see the pitch. Whether Priestman got any clarification on who will go to Tokyo from these games is up for debate. We’ve already discussed many of those selection headaches on this website. From Évelyne Viens scoring twice as arguably Canada’s third option up top to a final midfield spot left vacant, this Canada camp will have made those internal discussions more interesting, to say the least.
Ashley Lawrence: Why not both?Is Ashley Lawrence best used as a right fullback or midfielder for Canada? It’s a tiring argument we’ve seen play out again with these two matches in Great Britain. Twice the Paris Saint-Germain star began the match at the right of defence… and twice she was moved to the midfield at about the 60-minute mark. This begs the question: Why have this argument in the first place? Lawrence was effective in those early stages against both Wales and England as a stable defender, using her robust play to give Canada some solid defensive footing. By the time she shifted into midfield (after Desiree Scott departed for fullback Jayde Riviere), the 25-year-old was able to provide some good attacking nuance and play in the final third. Her assist on Jessie Fleming’s beautiful curling shot against Wales is a prime example of that. This Canada coaching staff will demand positional versatility from its 18-player squad. Being able to implement Lawrence in defence if playing a tough attacking team or, in the inverse, give an attacking role in midfield when goals are needed is a gift for Priestman.
Win over England program’s biggest in a long timePriestman’s win over England was Canada's first against a team in the top 20 of the Women’s FIFA World Rankings since, well, the last time they beat England in April 2019. Priestman was on the losing side that day as England assistant. This is a significant amount of time – 11 matches, to be precise – counting the lack of international fixtures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s come at just the right time. While the SheBelieves Cup can be fairly seen as a disappointment for Canada, they did manage to come close to a result against world no. one United States and can chalk up their defeat to eighth-ranked Brazil to some freak defensive errors. Put all this in context and Canada has reason to be confident going to Tokyo. Priestman’s side held strong against a quick-and-shifty England attack – just as they did against the U.S. It’s a promising streak at the back that will come in handy in Olympic matchups.