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Canada Needs A Win, And They Might Just Get One

Members of the Canadian womens national soccer team wear "Enough Is Enough" shirts in protest for equal pay ahead of the 2023 SheBelieves Cup soccer match between Canada and Japan at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on February 22, 2023.
Patrick T. Fallon / AFP)

It’s almost time for the 2023 World Cup. To help get you ready, we will be providing you with precious information about every team in the tournament. You can read all of our team previews here.

A really cool recent trend in women’s soccer is that sometimes, in the wake of a team’s success, that team's federation responds with a loving fuck you. Japan, the U.S., Spain, and Jamaica are all too familiar with this, and the list goes on.

Unfortunately, Canada’s XNT—the 2021 Olympic gold medal winner—has fallen victim to a similar, exceedingly frustrating incompetence. Before the SheBelieves Cup in February, Canada Soccer said they didn’t have enough money to properly fund the team, then strong-armed their players into playing in the tournament after those players expressed their intention to strike. 

Since then, there has been turnover within the federation and players have testified before a government committee that they “do not trust Canada Soccer to be open and honest as we continue to negotiate for not only fair and equitable compensation and treatment, but for the future of our program.” The players are still in talks with the federation to ensure that an adequate labor agreement that covers the World Cup and the rest of the year is implemented before the tournament starts. To make matters worse, Canada Soccer's general secretary, Jason de Vos, recently claimed that the federation doesn't currently have enough money to hold matches for any senior or youth national team in the fall, and he is exploring declaring bankruptcy.

Don’t yet count the squad out, despite their recent losing record and their federation’s profound jackassery. In a recent interview, coach Bev Priestman revealed that her players thrive on being seen as the underdogs. “I also don't mind being written off because I think that's what can get the best out of the likes of Christine Sinclair and players who’ve seen that happening to them their whole careers,” she explained. 

The roster has plenty of talent, with both legendary veterans and young players playing vital roles for a healthy mix of NWSL and European clubs. The team is seventh in the FIFA rankings, and, don’t forget, won the whole dang Olympics two years ago! They will need to muster all the skill they can because they’ve been placed in the tournament’s group of death with Australia, Nigeria, and the Republic of Ireland. Longtime midfielder Jessie Fleming notes, “If we do make it out of the group, it will prepare us well for what’s to come after.” 

Unfortunately, vibrant attacker Janine Beckie tore her ACL in March, joining the growing list of top players missing this summer’s tournament. But veterans like Sinclair, Kadeisha Buchanan, and Ashley Lawrence—who Priestman called “one of the most underrated players in the world”—will join forces with exciting younger players like Jordyn Huitema and Cloé Lacasse in an aim to find their stride during the tournament. 

Who Is Their Star?

Chrstine Sinclair, duh! With 190 international goals, she is the highest-scoring player in international competition in the whole wide world, ever. That’s more than Abby Wambach, more than Cristiano Ronaldo, more than Mia Hamm. She has also appeared in 319 international matches, making her the second-most capped player ever, only behind (long-retired) Kristine Lilly’s 354. Sinclair is a living legend, captaining both the CANXNT and her club, the Portland Thorns, for ages. She’s currently in an outrageously fun back-and-forth goal race with Lynn Williams, both chasing ex-NWSLer Sam Kerr for the most all-time league goals. As Mariam Kourabi writes, “We are very lucky to be witnessing the leading international goalscorer of all time still playing week in and week out to such a high level, with casual wow moments every now and then."

Tell Me About A Cool Youngster

I didn’t mention before that two of the players on the team’s provisional roster are still in college. Jade Rose, 20, is one of them. She's at Harvard and won the Canada Young Soccer Player of the Year award in 2020 and 2021. The star defender was just 16 when she earned her first national team call-up, and has played a sprinkling of games since. Rose has a proven ability to stay steady under pressure. Her first (and only) assist for the CANXNT was back in September of 2022, when she schooled heavyweight Sam Kerr and proceeded to send a nasty through-ball to Adrianna Leone.

In Canada’s most recent game, against France, Rose played a full 90 minutes, signaling that the coaching staff is interested in seeing her grow into a significant role on the back line. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see a rematch with Kerr in July. 

Who Is Their Enemy?

Were you even reading before? Canada Soccer! The CANXNT's biggest enemy is their own benefactor. It’s sabotage from the inside.

This is also the best place to note that the USWNT and CANXNT have a supremely entertaining rivalry. In a recent press conference, U.S. striker Sophia Smith noted that she and club teammate Sinclair constantly needle each other. “The trash talk between me and Sinc never stops,” she said with a smile. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a World Cup year or not; I think we have that little banter going on all the time.” That kind of half-kidding-but-mostly-not passion is evident whenever these two teams face each other. Their last major tournament meeting was a Canadian upset in the 2021 Olympic semifinals, which no doubt boils the blood of any USWNT player on that squad to this day.  

Still, when the Canadian team was going through that you have to play or we’ll sue you even though we haven’t paid you for last year moment with their federation, the U.S. players offered heaps of solidarity, recalling their own recent struggles to gain sufficient support from U.S. Soccer. So maybe the best classification for the USWNT-CANXNT relationship is “frenemies.”

National Folk Hero Who I Think Is Cool

Terry Fox. He’s not a folk hero, per say, but he’s reached a kind of mythic status in Canada that is hard to overstate. At age 18, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his leg and had to have it amputated. Three years later, he set out on a gargantuan mission: to run across Canada as a fundraiser for cancer research. He symbolically dipped his toe in the Atlantic Ocean and proceeded west on his Marathon of Hope, collecting donations as he went. Fox pushed through injuries and pain before being forced to stop after more than 3,000 miles with the news that his cancer had spread to his lungs. He died less than a year later, in 1981. In recent years, Fox’s family has discovered they are Métis, a nation of Indigenous people in Canada.

Scran Or Not Scran: National Dish Edition

When I moved to Montreal two years ago, I expected to eat lots of poutine, bagels, and maple syrup. And hey, I was right! These foods may all be different shades of brown but they’re quite délicieux if you know where to go. Hit La Banquise for poutine, Fairmount or St-Viateur for bagels, and any place that has Quebecois maple syrup. I declare all of these treats to be Scran(ada)! 

What Would A Successful World Cup Look Like For This Team?

A win. The CANXNT has been one of the few consistent presences in the history of professional women’s soccer. They have a strong program that, when firing on all cylinders, is capable of winning the whole thing, and they will go into the tournament with that objective. Ultimately, after an Olympic gold medal, any other places on the podium will be underwhelming.

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