Canada’s women’s soccer team finally found golden glory after years of tantalising near misses when they beat Sweden in a nerve-jangling shootout to triumph at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
However, much has changed since they celebrated on the Yokohama pitch and Bev Priestman’s side head to the Women’s World Cup with a number 7 ranking, still mired in an equity pay battle with the federation and missing key players to injury.
“The mindset going into this tournament is ambitious, striving for more and looking to climb the steepest mountain,” Portland Thorns forward Adriana Leon told Canada Soccer.
Canada won back-to-back Olympic bronze medals before their Tokyo joy but have not had the same success at the World Cup despite playing in every one since the inaugural edition in 1991. They lost the bronze game in 2003 in their best finish.
The Canadians were undefeated in 14 of 17 games in 2022, but have lost four of their last five with three defeats at the SheBelieves Cup in February when they played under protest and called out what they called the “disgusting” discrepancy between the support for Canada’s men’s versus women’s programmes.
Long-time captain Christine Sinclair said the women want the pay dispute with their federation settled before they leave for Australia.
“(The) time’s coming where we want it done so as players we’re not having to deal with it while we’re trying to prepare,” the 40-year-old told The Canadian Press.
Canada are in Group B with hosts Australia, Nigeria and Ireland.
Canada’s talisman Sinclair, their all-time top scorer with 190 goals and one of the country’s most recognisable athletes, will become the first person to score at six World Cups if she finds the net Down Under.
Sheridan is expected to get the nod in goal.
“Getting that confidence from Bev has been massive,” the San Diego Waves keeper told Canada Soccer. “Stepping into (retired keeper Stephanie Labbe’s) shoes is never going to be easy and anybody who’s been before me has been a world-class goalkeeper.
“Bev has given me a lot of confidence and been challenging me in areas I didn’t think I could challenge myself in.”
Janine Beckie’s season-ending knee injury in March was a blow but Canada have had good news including Chelsea defender Kadeisha Buchanan’s return from injury late in the WSL season.
“The mindset of the team going into the tournament is unbreakable,” Sheridan said.
Buchanan and Vanessa Giles are expected to anchor Canada’s back line. Jessie Fleming, fresh off an FA Cup triumph with Chelsea, Sophie Schmidt, who plans to retire post-World Cup, and Julia Grosso should command the midfield.
“Knowing that the country is behind us is our 12th man, it means everything to us to have the support of Canada,” Leon said.