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Canadian women’s soccer team draws Australia, Ireland, Nigeria for World Cup

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Within minutes of learning her team’s path at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Canada coach Bev Priestman was looking deep into the draw.

The seventh-ranked Canadians avoided some of the tournament heavyweights in being drawn with co-host Australia, Ireland and Nigeria in Group B.

Australia, at No. 13, was the second-lowest-ranked team the Olympic champion Canadians could have faced out of Pot 1. Only co-host New Zealand, at No. 22, had a lower ranking in the pot containing the co-hosts and top seeds.

And Priestman’s team is familiar with Australia and No. 45 Nigeria, having played both twice this year. Ireland, ranked 24th, will be making its World Cup debut.

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“I’m excited,” Priestman, speaking from Auckland, said of Saturday’s draw. “It could be worse, it could be better.

The top two in each pool will advance to the round of 16 with the Group B winner facing the runner-up in Group D and the Group B runner-up taking on the Group D winner.

That means a possible challenging date with No. 4 England, No. 15 China or No. 18 Denmark.

The expanded 32-country field made for a more benign landing zone for most top teams. But Group D is one of the tougher neighbourhoods and Olympic champion Canada will have to get through it to reach the quarter-finals.

Priestman said the goal will be to win the group, so as to avoid a likely meeting with in-form England, which defeated the top-ranked Americans last month.

LED screens show the final draw at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 draw in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday. (Alan Lee/Photosport/The Associated Press)

Canada defeated Australia twice in September, 1-0 and 2-1 in Brisbane and Sydney respectively, and is 6-2-2 against the Matildas this century. Having just played Down Under, it also knows what to expect.

The Canadians won their only meeting with Ireland, 2-1 in 2014.

But the draw did not do Canada any favours in No. 45 Nigeria, the highest-ranked team in Pot 4. The Super Falcons have never missed a World Cup and made the quarterfinals in 1999.

Canada is 2-1-2 all-time against Nigeria, recording a 2-0 win and 2-2 tie when they met in a pair of matches in April in B.C.

“Nigeria are a very difficult team to play,” said Priestman.

Two of their earlier matchups came in past World Cups. The two teams tied 3-3 at the 1995 tournament and Canada lost 1-0 to Nigeria in a disastrous showing at the 2011 competition where it finished last.

Tourney begins July 20

The opening matches next year will see New Zealand play Norway in Auckland and Australia face Ireland in Sydney, both on July 20 (local time).

The Canadians will play their opening-round games in Australia, starting with Nigeria on July 21 in Melbourne. Canada will then face Ireland on July 26 in Perth before meeting Australia on July 31 back in Melbourne.

The draw means Canada will play all of its matches in Australia, including the knockout rounds.

No. 3 Germany or No. 5 France could await Canada in the quarterfinals

It’s the first Women’s World Cup to be held in two countries, the first with an expanded 32-country field, up from 24, and the first in the Southern Hemisphere.

“It’s getting real!!!” tweeted Canadian defender Vanessa Gilles.

The 64-game tournament is scheduled to run through Aug. 20 across 10 different venues in nine different cities — five cities in Australia and four in New Zealand.

Priestman and Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane were in the audience for the draw, along with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian federal minister for sport, Anika Wells. Canadian Victor Montagliani, president of CONCACAF and a FIFA vice-president, was also on hand.

Three teams still TBD

The trophy was also there, brought in by former U.S. coach Jill Ellis, who won it in 2015 and 2019.

Former players Carli Lloyd, Alexi Lalas, Gilberto Silva and Ian Wright were among those taking part in Saturday’s ceremony at Auckland’s Aotea Centre.

The 29 qualified teams along with three slots yet to be filled were divided into four pots by seeding for the draw.

Canada was placed in Pot 2, which also included the eighth-ranked Netherlands, No. 9 Brazil, No. 11 Japan, No. 12 Norway, No. 14 Italy, No. 15 China and No. 17 South Korea.

In addition the tournament co-hosts, Pot 1 featured the top-ranked U.S., No. 2 Sweden, No. 3 Germany, No. 4 England, No. 5 France and No. 6 Spain.

Canada was kept away from the U.S. and fellow CONCACAF sides Costa Rica and Jamaica under FIFA’s “general principle” that no group has more than one team from the same confederation.

That does not apply to Europe, because of the number of possible entrants — 11 or possibly 12 depending in the playoff tournament.

The Philippines, Morocco, Vietnam and Zambia will also be making their Women’s World Cup debut.

Vietnam, ranked 34th, lands in the deep end with an opening game against the four-time champion U.S.

At the 2019 World Cup in France, Canada was drawn in a pool with the Netherlands, Cameroon and New Zealand. The Canadians finished second to the Dutch in the group and lost 1-0 to Sweden in the round of 16.

The Canadian women are 10-2-3 this year and have won four straight since losing 1-0 to the U.S. in the final of the CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico in July.

Canada’s best finish at the World Cup was fourth in 2003.

The three remaining teams for the 2023 competition will come from the 10-team Inter-Confederation Playoff Tournament, scheduled for Feb. 17-23 in Auckland.

The field features two teams from Asia (Chinese Taipei and Thailand), two from Africa (Cameroon and Senegal), two from CONCACAF (Haiti and Panama), two from South America (Chile and Paraguay), one from Oceania (Papua New Guinea) and one from Europe (Portugal).

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Canada coach John Herdman disputes Croatian counterpart's account of skipped post-match handshake – The Globe and Mail

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Canada head coach John Herdman during a World Cup match against Croatia, at the Khalifa International Stadium, in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 27.The Associated Press

Canada coach John Herdman is disputing his Croatian counterpart’s account of why there was no handshake after their World Cup game.

Herdman had antagonized the Croatian camp with a heated postgame message to his players after Canada’s opening 1-0 loss to Belgium at the soccer showcase. Asked in a pitch-side interview what he had said in a postgame huddle to his players, Herdman replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff – Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”

That prompted a stern lecture from Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic on the need for respect. And after Croatia beat the Canadians 4-1 Sunday, Dalic was asked if he had a chance to shake hands with Herdman following the final whistle.

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“I did not see the other head coach after the match,” he said through an interpreter. “When I lose I always congratulate the winner. He was not there and that’s his way of doing things. He’s obviously mad. He is a good coach. He is a high-quality professional. But it will take some time for him to learn some things.”

Herdman, whose postgame news conference preceded Dalic’s on Sunday, disputed that account Wednesday when asked about it.

“Look, we shook hands before the game. So that happened,” he said. “At the end of the game, the usual process – no different than [with Belgium coach] Roberto Martinez. You shake hands with the coach, then you go shake hands with the referee.

“When I turned round, [Dalic] was already off down the touchline, which is his right to do. He’s celebrating. He’s just beaten Canada. It was a big celebration for him. He was off and I couldn’t get to shake his hand. I went into the field, shook the ref’s hand, shook players’ hands. And didn’t get to see him.

“That moment’s gone. We’re into process now – team huddle, see your fans, flash interviews, calm yourself down so you don’t say anything and move on.”

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Argentina coast past Poland 2-0 to top World Cup Group C – Al Jazeera English

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Second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez cap a return to form for the South American giants.

Argentina coasted past Poland in a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night to top Group C and confirm their place in the last 16 of the World Cup, signalling a return to form for the South American giants after a poor start to this year’s tournament.

Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez’s second-half goals capped a dominant display by coach Lionel Scaloni’s charges at Stadium 974 – which was packed to the rafters with tens of thousands of raucous Argentinian supporters – to set up a clash with Australia on Saturday.

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After a goalless first 45 minutes, Mac Allister got on the end of Nahuel Molina’s cross just one minute into the second period and, despite making weak contact, he saw his shot creep over the line with Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny beaten.

The second goal was the result of patient buildup play which saw Argentina shift the ball around before Enzo Fernandez made a defence-splitting pass for Julian Alvarez, who found space in the box and smashed it into the top corner to effectively kill the game in the 67th minute.

Poland were lifeless throughout but managed to also squeeze through to the knockout phase on goal difference at the expense of Mexico, who beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Group C’s other match.

They will meet defending champions France in the last 16 on Sunday.

Argentina's Alexis Mac Allister scores their first goal
Mac Allister opened the scoring for Argentina immediately after half-time [Issei Kato/Reuters]

Messi misses from the penalty spot

The first half’s defining moment came in the 39th minute when Argentina captain and talisman Lionel Messi failed to convert from the penalty spot on his record-breaking 22nd World Cup match, one more than the late Diego Maradona managed for La Albiceleste.

Poland were up in arms when Argentina were awarded the penalty after a VAR check for a foul on Messi when Szczesny’s glove brushed his face as the Paris St Germain forward rose up for a header at the far post.

But Szczesny was up to the task and despite the Argentina fans raising the decibel levels inside the arena, he kept his composure and guessed correctly, diving to his left and using one hand to swat aside Messi’s effort.

Not to be deterred, Messi never stopped surging forward and he was a menace to Poland all throughout the game with his dribbling ability and vision.

His glittering performance stood in stark contrast to that of Poland’s star striker Robert Lewandowski, who was deprived of service and virtually anonymous for the duration of the match.

Messi, 35, has admitted this will likely be his last World Cup outing while Lewandoski, 34, has said he is unsure if he will make it to the 2026 edition in North America but would like to do so.

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Maple Leafs extend win streak to five games as Marner enters record book – Sportsnet.ca

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