The Canadian National Team looks ahead to a pair of friendlies on Apr. 9 and 13 against Wales and England. With the roster unveiled for the matches including the likes of a healthy Christine Sinclair, there are a group of several notable absentees, including Kadeisha Buchanan, Diana Matheson and Adriana Leon.
At the heart of the Canadian backline, Buchanan’s absence during the She Believes Cup was glaring. Not that Canada’s other defenders didn’t adequately slot into her position, but Buchanan is much more than just a defender – she’s a playmaker that dictates the tempo of matches and orchestrates attacking movements.
“Kadeisha, not with us due to medical reasons, not medically cleared,” said Head Coach Bev Priestman. “I know Kadeisha is devastated not to be here again with the group but she believes it’s a chance for other players to step up.”
Matheson, meanwhile, who has had a troubling spell over the past few years, continues to struggle to overcome her injuries.
“This will be her second camp that she’s missing under myself,” said Priestman. “I think with Diana she’s on the route to recovery. It’s taken longer than we hoped. Excited for when Diana does rejoin the team, but obviously with her level of experience and what she brings to that environment, it’s another big loss.”
Canada was not lacking in the department of creating dangerous scoring opportunities throughout the She Believes Cup. Their lack of clinical finishing is what frustrated both supporters and players alike; much of this can be attributed to the fitness of its players heading into the tournament. British-based players will be at their peak physical condition heading into these friendlies, as their players are nearing the final quarter of their respective domestic seasons.
The importance of such a challenge was stressed by Bev Priestman.
“To test ourselves against England, a top-10 team, it’s critical to our preparation,” said Priestman. “We have to turn up in April ready. I felt that while we were fresh we could compete, so that US game granted we lost but I felt we competed with a sort of weakened roster. I think the reality of COVID and a lot of players not touching a ball for a long time, I felt that by the third game we just physically struggled by that quick turnaround in that heat … I think the tight turnaround between these games is going to let me see the progress made from a lot of players who’ve gone back to NWSL, NCAA, particularly North America. They were out of season and I think you’ve seen that.”
One can imagine that Priestman will be relishing the opportunity to reunite with her former side, not too far from where she herself was raised in the north of England. Though since she’s departed her former post, England has gone through a managerial change and much remains unknown as to how it will look – the same can be said about Wales.
“I know the players, but do I know necessarily how they’ll play?” said Priestman. “Maybe not … I’m excited playing in England, my home country.”
“Wales are a massive nation, a lot of pride, defensively very sound … I expect a team that defends for their life very well … I expect a really tough game.”
Priestman’s Canada remains a work in progress, and these two friendlies provide another glimpse at what could be in the near future, offering insight into the tactical components and interchanges that could be utilized during the Olympics.
“I’m excited what we’ll do, not just this year but going ahead the next four years – I’m in a really good place and enjoying every minute,” said Priestman.
It’s safe to say that Canada is excited too, Bev!