Coming off a resounding 3-0 win over Wales last Friday, the Canadian women's national team is entering its next pre-Olympics tune-up match with a healthy dose of confidence. They'll take on England, currently sixth in the FIFA World Rankings (two ahead of Canada) in what's sure to be a major test of the Canadians' progress under new coach Bev Priestman. The match – which will kick off at 2:15 p.m. ET in Stoke-on-Trent, and will be broadcast on OneSoccer – will likely be one of the last chances Canada has to prepare before this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan and should be an interesting measuring stick for a squad in transition. At least, that's how Canadian forward Janine Beckie described it. "It's a huge measuring stick for us," she told reporters in a pre-match press conference Monday. "I think this is probably the best test we could ask for right now, barring probably the U.S. and a few other teams... "Almost their entire roster is in-season, whereas for us it's very different. Naturally, they're a tier one team, so every time we come up against England it's a big test. This one will be especially difficult, they're coming off a very difficult loss against France so they'll be very motivated to come out and get a win. We've got lots of momentum from our last game, so bring those together and it'll make for a really competitive game." With that in mind, here are a few things to look out for in Canada's clash with England.
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Friends behind enemy linesThe matchup with England will be a very fascinating one, particularly for the specific players that could be facing off. With four Canadian players – Janine Beckie, Jessie Fleming, Shelina Zadorsky, and Rylee Foster – currently playing at the club level in the Women's Super League, either alongside or against pretty much everyone in the English squad, there's plenty of familiarity between the teams. Ten of the England players – including key starters like Ellen White, Alex Greenwood, and goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck – are current teammates of Beckie at Manchester City, which has made for quite an interesting lead-up to the match. "For me, it's interesting because there will be a lot of (club teammates) on the pitch tomorrow," Beckie said. "For me, I know their tendencies, but there's 12 of them. For them, there's only one of me. "I ran into Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway in the lobby the other day and we had a bit of banter about it, but it's all fun and games – once we get on the pitch, we're not friends for those 90 minutes. It's an interesting dynamic because I do know them so well; specifically as a winger I'll come up against one of my teammates; whoever that is, I don't know." England, like Canada, played a friendly match last Friday, but it didn't go as well for them – they fell 3-1 to France. So, they're likely to pull out all the stops in an effort to finish this window with a win over the Canadians. The last time these two sides played (in April 2019), Canada won 1-0 with a Christine Sinclair goal, but a lot has changed for both sides in the two years since.
How best to deploy the midfield?Bev Priestman has a strong pool of talent at her disposal, but it's not easy to get all of her best players on the pitch at the same time. One player, in particular, who has been the subject of debate recently: Ashley Lawrence, who returned to the squad for this camp after missing the SheBelieves Cup in February. Lawrence – a key player for Paris Saint-Germain and one of Canada's most important pieces – lined up at right fullback in the match against Wales to start. Around the 55th minute, though, Canada brought fullback Jayde Riviere on for central midfielder Desiree Scott, which pushed Lawrence into the middle of the field. The 15 minutes where Lawrence anchored a midfield trio of herself, Quinn, and Jessie Fleming might have been Canada's most dominant stretch, with two of their three goals coming within that period. It's an interesting debate: what, exactly, is the best way to use a player like Lawrence? "Ashley can play anywhere around the pitch and be impactful," Beckie offered. "I think she brings an athleticism and a forward mindset to fullback that Canada hasn't really seen before she started to do it, and I think that's really important to us. On top of that, she's a great 1-v-1 defender, and she's incredible on the ball, so in the buildup, it's really important that we have her there from a technical perspective. "I think it's a bonus that we can bring her into midfield in a game and it's a seamless transition for her. Obviously she was a midfielder for years so it's like second nature to her. But with Ashley, she's one of those players where I don't really know what her best position is because she has an impact everywhere she plays. She's obviously a world-class player, and I thought it was a brilliant move to put her into the midfield last game, but I think we rely on her heavily at fullback to help us play the way we want to play." So, perhaps it's unlikely we see Lawrence starting in midfield in these big games, but having the option to move her into a central role is definitely an excellent card for Priestman to have in the deck.
Finding ways to scoreAfter failing to generate much offensively at the SheBelieves Cup, Canada came alive against Wales with three spectacular goals. With a combination of improved finishing and greater chance generation, Les Rouges were much more dangerous – aided in part by the returns of Jordyn Huitema and Christine Sinclair, although neither scored themselves (and Sinclair left with an injury in the first half). Still, there's some work for Canada to do when it comes to putting the ball in the net. One area that could be a more potent source of offence is set-piece opportunities, which the Canadians have found success with before. Beckie has been tasked with taking a lot of the dead-ball opportunities for the side in recent matches, and she explained that she'd certainly like to help the side get more dangerous in that area. "I think we're one of the best teams in the world in terms of how dangerous we can be on set pieces, purely because of our stature," Beckie said. "I think the one thing we maybe have missed over the last probably decade is that really consistent, world-class delivery. I want to be that person that delivers those things." More broadly, Beckie conceded that Canada needs to find more ways to score, particularly in matches without a legendary goalscorer like Christine Sinclair available. "Christine has been one we've relied upon for a long time to score those, and she still scores them consistently, but to be a world-class team, to win a world championship, you can't only rely on one person," Beckie said. "We need to take advantage of the pace we have up top, so I fall into that category, along with the likes of Jordyn (Huitema), Deanne (Rose), Nichelle (Prince), we've got a lot of pace in the front line." Certainly, Canada will need a goal or two to stand a chance at a result against England on Tuesday.