European journey poses stiff test for Canadian women’s team

Christine-Sinclair

Canada's Christine Sinclair, left. (Nelson Antoine/AP)

The upcoming pair of international friendlies marks the toughest competition for the Canadian women’s soccer team since the Reds captured bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

It’s fitting that both opponents, Sweden and Germany, are nations that Canada shared the podium with in Rio.

The Reds will meet Sweden on April 6 in Trelleborg, followed by a date versus the world’s top-ranked Germans three days later in Erfurt.

Here’s an inside look at some numbers and memorable moments for Canada over the years versus their upcoming European counterparts:

1 — how many times Canada has defeated Germany. The poignant victory game last summer in Rio, when now-retired striker Melissa Tancredi netted a brace while wearing the captain’s arm band. Coach John Herdman recently called that win “a real confidence builder” and added, “doing it again will be a huge step for this young team.”

5 — players on Germany’s roster who have Canadian teammates at club level. In the Bundesliga, Mandy Islacker and Kathrin Hendrich play alongside Sophie Schmidt for 1. FFC Frankfurt, while Josephine Henning, Pauline Bremer and Dzsenifer Marozsán are Olympique Lyonnais teammates of Kadeisha Buchanan in France’s Division 1 Féminine.

6 — goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe spent six seasons playing professionally in Sweden, more than any other Canadian. She had stints with Piteå IF and KIF Örebro of the Damallsvenskan, making over 100 appearances during her tenure. In 2014, she backstopped Örebro to second place and was nominated one of the top goalkeepers in Sweden.

7 — number of teenagers on Herdman’s roster. Marie Levasseur, Hannah Taylor, Jessie Fleming, Gabrielle Carle, Sarah Stratigakis, Jordyn Huitema and Deanne Rose are all part of the European trek. Only Fleming has seen action versus both Sweden and Germany.

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11 — number of Canadians playing professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League. Three are rookies (Kailen Sheridan, Lindsay Agnew, and Nichelle Prince). The 2017 NWSL season begins April 15. Diana Matheson was set to play for Seattle, but suffered a knee injury, which will keep her out of the lineup all year.

15 — over the span of her career, captain Christine Sinclair has faced Sweden 15 times. She’s scored eight goals against the Scandinavians.

16 — returning players from Canada’s 2016 Olympic squad.

20 — Canada’s upcoming date versus Sweden will mark the 20th time they’ve played one another dating back to 1987. The Swedes won that early meeting 2-0, while in their most recent game they played to a 1-1 draw in late 2014. Coincidentally, both games were held in the United States.

22.4 — the average age of the Canadian team set to play Sweden and Germany. The youngest player is 15-year-old striker Huitema. She made her senior debut at the recent Algarve Cup in Canada’s loss to Spain in the tournament’s final. The oldest player is Sinclair at 33.

30 — if Rebecca Quinn and Janine Beckie see time in either match, each will hit the 30-appearance mark. Quinn, who has experience as a defender and as a midfielder, made her senior debut at the 2014 Algarve Cup. Beckie’s first cap came in the fall of 2014 during a friendly versus Sweden.

160 — Sophie Schmidt is on the cusp of her 160th cap for Canada.

73,680 — spectators on hand at Olympiastadion Berlin to watch the opening match of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup between the hosts and Canada. Although the Canadians lost that game 2-1, Sinclair scored a stunning 25-yard free kick in the 82nd minute that made highlight reels everywhere. Earlier in the contest, the captain had her nose broken after taking a flagrant elbow from defender Babett Peter.

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