It’s all to play for in Perth as the Canada take on the Republic of Ireland in the second round of Group B fixtures at the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Neither team won their opening game, but they come into this match with wildly different pressures.
Canada will be concerned about dropping points against Nigeria, a goal-less game in which Christine Sinclair was denied from the penalty spot. It is already a tough group and failure to beat Ireland will make the Olympic champions, pegged as dark horses by some, sweat even more when their third and final group match after this against co-hosts Australia is their hardest.
Sinclair’s battle with Marta to become the first player to score at six World Cup tournaments is still on.
Ireland will have taken great hope from their opening game against the aforementioned Matildas, losing only to a Steph Catley penalty. Giving away the spot-kick was a moment of naivety and nothing more, suggesting a few tweaks could see the Irish kick on here.
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As was the case between Ireland and Australia, there is only on previous meeting between these teams – and even that game was now nine years ago. It was part of the 2014 Cyprus Cup and Canada won 2-1 to claim fifth place in the tournament.
But even being the best part of a decade in the past, two of the scorers that day are likley to feature in this week’s World Cup clash. Ruesha Littlejohn, now 33, put Ireland into an early lead, while Sophie Schmidt, now 35, scored Canada’s 90th minute winner. Diana Matheson, who retired from international football in 2020 with more than 200 caps, scored the other Canadian goal.
Chelsea midfielder Jessie Fleming is expected to be available, having missed the Nigeria game with a calf injury. She had strapping on her leg in training on Monday but looked comfortable.
New Arsenal forward Cloe Lacasse is pushing for a start after impressing off the bench last time out. Adriana Leon, Jordyn Huitema or Deanne Rose could be vulnerable.
There were concerns that influential centre-back Louise Quinn might be a doubt after sporting a protective boot when the squad arrived in Perth. But she was able to train fully on Tuesday without suffering any problems. Heather Payne has also had strapping on a hamstring as a precaution.
Canada didn’t fluke their way to an Olympic gold medal two years ago and know how to navigate tournament football. Coach Bev Priestman didn’t seem too concerned after the Nigeria game and, as long as they retain their defensive solidity, getting a goal isn’t beyond them.
Ireland will no doubt have a good go at it. But this could be one of those tournaments where, despite being competitive in each and every game, they routinely fall just short.