Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Women’s Football
Japan versus Canada
July 21, 2021 at 6:30 a.m. EST / 7:30 a.m. JST
Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, Japan
Watch Live: CBC TV Network, CBC Gem, CBC Olympics App, the website of CBC Sports in Tokyo 2020.
RELATED READING: Tokyo 2020 Preview: CanWNT Heading to Japan for Third Straight Medal
Canada’s “change the color of the medal” campaign at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics begins on Wednesday with the start of the group stage against hosts Japan.
It will be Bev Priestman’s first game in a major tournament as senior national team head coach, and quite a way – against a strong team at their home Olympics, with a good start certainly a priority. There will be no fans in the stands as Japan declares yet another COVID-19 state of emergency, but the desire to win at home is still growing for a Japanese team in the midst of their “golds” his generation “.
There are players in the Japanese team who are part of the team that won the 2011 World Cup, as well as the teams that won the AFC Asian Women’s Cup and silver medals at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Cup, among other things.
Arsenal’s Mana Iwabuchi, still only 28, remarkably participated in all five of them, with Japanese captain Saki Kumagai being one of the most successful players the sport has ever seen. The 30-year-old defender / midfielder has been part of all of the above international squads minus the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, but would need multiple trophy cabinets to house all of the other things she’s won – 25 of them between her club careers (mostly at Olympique Lyonnais, where she played with Kadeisha Buchanan for a few years) and international game. All of that and the Asian Women’s Footballer of the Year 2019 to top it off.
This level of experience in leading a strong backline will be a great test for anyone Canada starts in the top, but as we know, Canada has proven this year that it can score against some of the world’s best teams. In 2021, they beat England, Wales and Argentina, drew the Netherlands, Brazil and the Czech Republic and, within 10 minutes, they were cleared against the best team in the world from the USA, among others. All of these teams are in the top 35 in the world, so Canada tested itself against the world’s best in the run-up to these Olympics.
The 3-3 draw against the Netherlands behind closed doors is a particularly positive result as it went against a team that won the European Women’s Championship in 2017 and became runner-up at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. It was also positive to see Canada score goals after two goalless draws at their previous camp in June (two by Janine Beckie and one by Nichelle Prince).
On this day, Canada can beat anyone with its star power – the best international goalscorer of all time Christine Sinclair belongs to a group of stars – and if both teams show up on Wednesday it should be a very fun game to open her run in Tokyo 2020 .
Canada’s greatest strength is its defense – Kadeisha Buchanan is one of the best center-backs in the world, Shelina Zadorsky has led Tottenham Hotspur in the women’s Super League and Vanessa Gilles has barely got a foot wrong in her national team career – but assumed Priestman continues to play a back four , only two of them will be able to start in the defense center. On the left there will likely be one of Allysha Chapman or Gabrielle Carle, while what Priestman sees as Ashley Lawrence’s best position will be paramount on the right. When it comes back she’ll start there, but Jayde Riviere is a more than capable substitute in midfield. The backline will be working against a team that includes the aforementioned striker / midfielder Saori Takarada Mana Iwabuchi and Washington Spirit, an aspiring star who has made more than 100 professional appearances by the age of 21.
This game takes place at the Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan – the home of the Japanese top division Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Nippon Professional Baseball League – and more than 1,000 km north of Tokyo. The stadium opened in 2001 and has also hosted matches from the 2002 World Cup, as well as the 2019 Rugby World Cup and several other major sporting events. Canada’s second group game against Chile will also take place on site (Saturday, July 24th at 3:30 a.m. EST).
3 THINGS TO SEE
- Sinclair stops her 300th international: Canadian captain Christine Sinclair not only holds the record for the most goals scored by an international soccer player, at 186 in the past 21 years, but she will join another very small group of legends on Wednesday. Only 23 players in international women’s football have played 200 internationals, including Sinclair and a few other Canadians – the recently retired Diana Matheson, 206, and Sophie Schmidt, 205, who is also part of the squad in Japan for this tournament. Sinclair will do better when she’s first on the pitch in Tokyo and will be the fourth player to ever reach 300 caps for her national team. Sinclair currently sits at 299 and stands behind a trio of Americans in the all-time leaderboard – the still-active Carli Lloyd, 306, Christie Pearce, 311, and the possibly untouchable Kristine Lilly, who made 354 appearances between 1987 and 2010. Sinclair is hands down the best player to ever wear a Canadian jersey, and cap number 300 is another milestone to add to the collection. Next up – 200 goals? Only time can tell.
- Japanese familiarity could be crucial again Canada: The aforementioned Saki Kumagai will be a big player for Japan as a center-back / defensive midfielder in this tournament, but the rest of Japan’s defenders should also be a challenge. They also have a trio of defenders – Risa Shimizu, Asato Miyagawa and Nanami Kitamura – from NTV Tokyo Verdy Beleza, which is the 2020 3rd short tournament, and this group has it. There are a total of seven players from this team as well as four each from the reigning Japanese champions Urawa Reds and the runner-up INAC Kobe Leonessa. This team has a lot of chemistry and a lot of players who play together on a regular basis, which could be an important factor in the success of this tournament.
- Who is Canada’s best team?: Bev Priestman has many decisions to make before Canada’s first game, with intense fights lasting for minutes in most positions on the pitch. If there are any suspensions, provided everyone is fit and available to choose from, it would likely be Christine Sinclair at the helm and Kadeisha Buchanan at the center-back – with Jessie Fleming, Janine Beckie and Ashley Lawrence also slated to start in Canada’s top eleven. If Ashley Lawrence starts in midfield, that would open Jayde Riviere a place on right-back, but if she starts in defense, Quinn and Desiree Scott are likely the favorites to start in the midfield triangle that we saw Priestman play at Tenure as head of Canada. On the wings, Nichelle Prince, Janine Beckie and Adriana Leon battle for two spots in a 4-3-3 formation while Vanessa Gilles has proven she is ready to play as a center-back for the national team if Priestman chooses her in the last few years to Buchanan’s regular partner Shelina Zadorsky. Decisions decisions …
Japan wins: 7 || Canada wins: 4 || Draws: 3
International friendly match: October 6, 2019 – Japan 4-0 Canada