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Canadian women’s soccer coach Priestman approaching SheBelieves Cup as Tokyo tune-up

A few days into training for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup in the warmth of Orlando, Florida, the Canadian women’s soccer team has shared the requisite happy tears, belly laughs and of course, the shake-off-the-rust practice sessions.

Now, it’s time for the real work to start.

The national team has been in an 11-month standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, and now, in its first camp since March 2020, has just six months to chase a third-consecutive Olympic medal at this summer’s Tokyo Games.

So what exactly is new head coach Bev Priestman expecting out of her first Canadian camp?

“I already get a sense of real hunger, desire, excitement for the group to get back together,” she said on a recent virtual call with reporters.

“It’s about connecting again. There’s a whole group of players who aren’t yet in season and so I think just getting back on the ground and building some of the ideas … and then we’re into a back-to-back tournament setting, which is exactly where [we] want to be, playing some of the best teams in the world.”

There are 29 players in training for the SheBelieves Cup, a four-team invitational tournament featuring some of the top nations in women’s soccer, including the reigning FIFA Women’s World Cup champion United States and No. 8-ranked Brazil.

This year, due to Covid restrictions, Canada (also No. 8) took the place of No. 6 England, while Argentina (No. 31) is filling in for Japan (No. 10).

Canada’s European-based players will join the rest of the squad this weekend and the roster will be trimmed to 23 just before Canada opens versus its longtime rival, the U.S., on Feb. 18.

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