Canada has learned the path it will travel at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
Canada (no. 5 in the current FIFA world rankings) was drawn into a group with Cameroon (no. 46), New Zealand (no. 19) and Netherlands (no. 7) during Saturday’s draw in Paris.
Canada will open its World Cup campaign against Cameroon on June 10 in Montpellier. On June 15, the Reds will face New Zealand in Grenoble, before wrapping up Group E play five days later vs. the Netherlands in Reims.
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup runs from June 7 to July 7 in nine cities across France with the final in Lyon.
Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said he was happy with how Saturday’s draw played out for his team, and admitted that the Netherlands might be its toughest opponent in the group. The Dutch are the current European champions.
“I’m pretty confident we can get out of the group. … It’s a World Cup, so the best teams will be here, but I’m excited about this now,” Heiner-Moller told Sportsnet over the phone from Paris.
“The group could have been worse, and it could have been better. But overall, I’m pleased and happy this is now done, because now we can properly prepare and scout our opponents.”
Curiously, Canada was also drawn into a group with the Netherlands and New Zealand at the 2015 Women’s World Cup on home soil. Canada drew New Zealand 0-0 in Edmonton, and then played the Dutch to a 1-1 stalemate in Montreal.
“I think we have changed a lot since then, and it’s different playing at home. The expectations for us were different, and there are some advantages with playing at home, but some disadvantages, as well. Hopefully, we come out of those two games with better results than we did in 2015,” Heiner-Moller stated.
Canada was one of the six seeded teams in the draw based on the current FIFA world rankings. As one of the top seeds, the fifth-ranked Canadians were in the first pot, along with reigning world champions United States (no. 1), Germany (no. 2), France (no. 3), England (no. 4) and Australia (no. 6).
Saturday’s event saw the 24-nation nation field divided into four pots, and then drawn into six groups of four teams.
The top two sides in each round-robin group at next summer’s World Cup, plus the four-best third-place teams overall, advance to the Round of 16.
Canada is unbeaten in 12 all-time matches vs. the Netherlands, with nine wins. The countries most recently met in 2016 ahead of the Rio Olympics, a game the Canadians won 2-1.
“This is a very typical Dutch side, with pace out wide, and great technical ability. … The team has improved rapidly over the last few years,” Heiner-Moller said.
Against New Zealand, Canada has won six of 11 matches with four draws, and its only loss came in 2000.
Canada has never played Cameroon in international competition.
“I’ve seen very little of Cameroon, but what I know about them is they’re a physical team. They play with a big heart, but not very organized within a set structure. They do man-marking, so you don’t find the same space like you would against a zonal-marking team,” Heiner-Moller offered.
Canada qualified for the World Cup by finishing second at the Concacaf Women’s Championship held in Texas and North Carolina in October. Canada lost 2-0 to the U.S. in the final.
This will more than likely be the final World Cup for iconic Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, who turns 36 next June. Sinclair has played in four previous World Cups, and is Canada’s all-time leader in appearances (274) and goals (177). It could also be the final World Cup for veteran midfielder Diana Matheson, who turns 35 next April.
Canada’s best showing at the Women’s World Cup came during the 2003 tournament staged in the U.S. when it reached the semifinals and finished fourth. Canada bowed out in the quarterfinals when it hosted the 2015 competition.
The Reds have competed in six of the seven World Cup tournaments that have been staged – they failed to qualify for the inaugural tournament in 1991 held in China.
Besides Heiner-Moller, Canadian midfielder Ashley Lawrence, who plays professionally for Paris Saint-Germain, was on hand in Paris for the draw.
Heiner-Moller will name 23 players to his roster after the Canadian team plays a number of friendlies and competes in the Algarve Cup tournament in Portugal in the buildup to next summer’s World Cup.
Heiner-Moller’s support staff will remain in France to visit the cities and inspect the venues where Canada will play at the World Cup – as well as the facilities where it will train and what hotels they’ll be staying in – so that way the team is fully prepared and can hit the ground running when it arrives in France next summer.
“We’ll even know stuff like how far is the nearest coffee shop [from the team hotel],” Heiner-Moller joked.
2019 FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP DRAW
(FIFA world ranking in parentheses)
GROUP A: France (4), South Korea (14), Norway (13) and Nigeria (39)
GROUP B: Germany (2), China (15), Spain (12) and South Africa (48)
GROUP C: Australia (6), Italy (16), Brazil (10) and Jamaica (53)
GROUP D: England (4), Scotland (20), Argentina (36) and Japan (8)
GROUP E: Canada (5), Cameroon (46), New Zealand (19) and Netherlands (7)
GROUP F: United States (1), Thailand (29), Chile (38) and Sweden (9)