Canada, boosted by the return of captain Christine Sinclair and Ashley Lawrence, take on a familiar foe in Brazil on Friday in the first of a two-game international friendly series.
The seventh-ranked Canadian women meet No. 9 Brazil in Santos first before the return match Tuesday in Sao Paulo.
Canada has an 8-9-9 record against Brazil since they first met in 1996.
Their most recent meeting was at the Tokyo Olympics where the Canadians prevailed 4-3 in a penalty shootout after the quarterfinal game finished knotted at 0-0.
“I think they’ve evolved since the Olympics Games,” coach Bev Priestman said Thursday. “I can remember that game wasn’t the most exciting game. I think you had two fatigued teams … I do think they’ve added legs to the team.”
“It will represent what we’ve always see from Brazil, which is a really tough game,” she added. “They’re great on transition. We’re going to have all of our standards and habits both defensively but also be brave in attack to unlock them and try and hurt them.”
Canada also downed Brazil 2-1 in the bronze-medal game at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Priestman is once again missing players.
Janine Beckie (Portland), Vanessa Gilles (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Deanne Rose (Reading, England), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash) and collegiate players Simi Awujo and Zoe Burns (USC), Jade Rose (Harvard) and Jayde Riviere (University of Michigan) are all unavailable.
The Canadian women are riding a four-game win streak going into the Brazil trip.
But Sinclair, Lawrence and Gabrielle Carle, missing in the October window that saw wins over No. 29 Morocco (4-0) and No. 76 Argentina (2-0), return to the roster for the games in Brazil.
The 39-year-old Sinclair and 27-year-old Lawrence have 428 Canadian caps between them.
“You’ll absolutely see both of those,” said Priestman. “I think there might be like between six and eight games left before a World Cup kicks off. You look at those two players and they’re a massive part of this team’s success.
“I felt the impact of both of them very very quickly (in training). Ashley looks fresh, looks ready to go. And Christine just brings both the technical standard to the midfield but also the leadership — and just the calmness, to be honest. She’s very experienced and I think it makes everybody else around her feel that way too.”
Both Canada and Brazil have qualified for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The Canadians have been draw in Pool B with No. 13 Australia, No. 24 Ireland and No. 45 Nigeria.
Deanne Rose and Chapman remain out injured while Gilles is just returning from an injury layoff. Beckie is taking a “planned break” after a prolonged season that started with Manchester City and finished with the Portland Thorns.
The missing college players have school commitments.
With roster spots available, Priestman summoned three members of the Canadian under-17 team.
It’s the first senior invites for fullback Ella Ottey and forwards Amanda Allen and Annabelle Chukwu. All three were among Canada’s top performers at the recent FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in India, where the young Canadians failed to make the knockout round after going 0-1-2 in pool play.
“It’s a really an exposure and a chance to see how they fit into this group. What I would say is they don’t look out of place at all,” said Priestman.
Priestman’s team is 10-2-3 this year with the losses coming to the top-ranked Americans (1-0) in the final of the CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico in July and No. 6 Spain in the Arnold Clark Cup in England in February.
In September, the Canadians won twice (1-0 and 2-1) in Australia.
Priestman noted the Canadian women have played a team from every continent in 2022.
“I don’t know if that’s been a thing in the past,” she said. “We also targeted more European opposition because of their presence at the World Cup.”
“So I think (the) Australia (series) and this Brazil test is something that we need,” she added.
The Canadian women will not be returning to the Arnold Clark Cup in February, with No. 14 Italy, No. 17 South Korea and No. 20 Belgium joining host England, ranked fourth.
Priestman said she is looking for different opposition in the February window.
The Canadian men, ranked 41st in the world, are also in action Friday, taking on No. 85 Bahrain in Mamama. John Herdman does not have his full squad for the pre-World Cup warmup, with European clubs still in action.
Goalkeepers: Sabrina D’Angelo, Vittsjo GIK (Sweden); Lysianne Proulx, SCU Torreense (Portugal); Kailen Sheridan, San Diego Wave (NWSL).
Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan, Chelsea (England); Gabrielle Carle, Kristianstads DFF (Sweden); Ashley Lawrence, Paris Saint-Germain (France); Marie Levasseur, Fleury FC (France); Ella Ottey, National Development Centre Ontario; Bianca St-Georges, Chicago Red Stars (NWSL); Sura Yekka, Le Havre AC (France); Shelina Zadorsky, Tottenham (England).
Midfielders: Jessie Fleming, Chelsea (England); Julia Grosso, Juventus (Italy); Quinn, OL Reign (NWSL); Sophie Schmidt, Houston Dash (NWSL); Desiree Scott, Kansas City Current (NWSL); Christine Sinclair (capt.), Portland Thorns (NWSL).
Forwards: Amanda Allen, National Development Centre Ontario; Annabelle Chukwu, National Development Centre Ontario; Jordyn Huitema, OL Reign (NWSL); Cloe Lacasse, SL Benfica (Portugal); Clarissa Larisey, Glasgow Celtic (Scotland); Adriana Leon, Manchester United (England); Nichelle Prince, Houston Dash (NWSL); Evelyne Viens, Kristianstads DFF (Sweden).
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
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