As the Canadian national soccer team gathers for training camp in the Gold Coast of Australia ahead of this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, there are significant questions to answer both on and off the pitch.
While recent headlines have centered on the off-field distractions of the Olympic champion’s fight for equal pay with Canada Soccer and the governing body’s overall financial woes, on the field, there are also worries over the injury status and match fitness of several key players on coach Bev Priestman’s side.
Strikers Deanne Rose and Nichelle Prince are returning from significant Achilles tendon injuries suffered in September and November, respectively, while three-time Olympic medalist Desiree Scott is recovering from a late-2022 knee injury that required surgery. Standout forward Janine Beckie has already been ruled out after suffering an ACL tear in her right knee in March.
They’re not the only ones who’ve had extended layoffs over the last year.
Fullback Jayde Riviere had hip surgery in September. Centre back Vanessa Gilles had a hip injury that kept her sidelined for a number of months. Fellow center back and team stalwart Kadeisha Buchanan missed April’s friendly versus France with a lower-body injury (though returned to Chelsea’s lineup in time to win a Women’s Super League title last month). Midfielder Quinn dealt with a leg issue earlier this season, but they have looked in form with club team OL Reign. Veteran defender Shelina Zadorsky missed significant time with her club Tottenham due to illness.
You get the picture.
“Unfortunately this past year we’ve had a few big injuries. Big players being sidelined, whether that’s Shelina, Desi, Deanne, Nichelle, these players who have incredible experience and incredible leadership on the team. I think we felt it against France (in April) and at the SheBelieves Cup (in February),” said Gilles at a recent practice session in Toronto before leaving for Australia.
“Definitely these personalities being missed, whether it’s off the pitch or on the pitch and getting all these players back are just going to help us get our groove back, get our DNA back, get our identity back, get that going.
“We’re very excited to have them all back.”
Canada, which is looking to rebound from a disappointing Round of 16 exit in 2019, opens its World Cup quest July 21st with a Group B matchup versus Nigeria in Melbourne, next it’s Republic of Ireland July 26th in Perth and finally the group stage finale versus hosts Australia in Melbourne.
The Canadian women last played April 11, when they lost 2-1 to No. 5 France in Le Mans. Priestman was without seven regular players that game due to injury and illness.