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Three of Canada’s most-followed national teams were in the news over the past few days. Here’s what to know:
Women’s basketball: Taking the scenic route to the Olympics
Canada already knew that its road to Paris will go through one of the four Olympic qualifying tournaments to be held in February 2024. But the world’s fifth-ranked team was hoping to shorten that path at the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup in Mexico, where a direct ticket to the Olympic qualifiers was up for grabs for the top finisher other than the United States. The powerhouse Americans clinched an Olympic berth with their victory in last year’s Women’s Basketball World Cup.
Despite being without WNBA players Kia Nurse, Bridget Carleton and Laeticia Amihere, the Canadians did their part in the preliminary round by going 4-0 with a tournament-best plus-137 point differential to win Group B. That should have allowed them to avoid facing the U.S. until the final, but the top-ranked Americans (also missing their WNBA players) surprisingly placed second in Group A after losing to 13th-ranked Brazil.
As a result, Canada ran into the U.S. in the semifinals and lost 67-63 before rebounding to beat Puerto Rico in Sunday’s less-meaningful bronze game. Brazil won the other semifinal to grab the spot in the Olympic qualifiers before upsetting the Americans again in the final to win the continental championship trophy.
Canada must now go through an Olympic “pre-qualifying” event in November in order to reach the qualifying tournaments proper. That shouldn’t be a problem, but it will require a bit more work.
Men’s soccer: Foiled again by the U.S.
Disappointing draws against tiny Guadeloupe and unheralded Guatemala forced a depleted Canadian team to win its group-stage finale vs. Cuba last week just to reach the knockout round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. That victory set up last night’s quarterfinal matchup with the rival Americans in Cincinnati.
Normally, a Canada-U.S. showdown in an elimination game at the continental championship tournament would be must-see TV. But both teams sent skeleton rosters to this year’s Gold Cup. Canada gave Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and other standouts a break after their long European club season, while the American absentees included star midfielder Christian Pulisic.
Still, the teams produced a dramatic ending last night. Canada’s Steven Vitória sent a 1-0 match to extra time with a penalty kick late in regulation and both teams scored in extra time before the Americans prevailed in a shootout.
WATCH l Canada exits Gold Cup following loss to U.S. on penalties:
It was Canada’s second high-profile loss to the U.S. in less than a month, following the Americans’ 2-0 victory in the CONCACAF Nations League title match on June 18 in Las Vegas.
The Canadian men now turn their attention to qualifying for the 2024 Copa America. The always-fierce South American championship, featuring World Cup winner Argentina and perennial power Brazil, is being hosted by the United States next summer and six CONCACAF teams will be invited. Those will be decided in the 2023-24 Nations League, which kicks off in September. Canada has a bye to November’s quarterfinals, where a win will earn them a spot in the Copa America — and some valuable tuneup matches for the 2026 World Cup.
Women’s soccer: World Cup roster announced
Despite some significant injuries, coach Bev Priestman described her 23-player Canadian roster for the upcoming tournament in Australia and New Zealand as “dynamic and exciting” upon revealing it yesterday. “It’s a great mix of veterans, experienced and new players who can all bring something different,” Priestman said.
The big cut was Desiree Scott, a tough veteran defensive midfielder who played in the last three World Cups and Olympics — including Canada’s gold-medal victory in 2021 in Tokyo. The 35-year-old is still recovering from a knee injury suffered late in the 2022 season.
Important forward Janine Beckie was ruled out of the World Cup months ago due to a torn ACL, while rising 20-year-old defender Jade Rose had to pull out before training camp because of an injury. But speedy forward Nichelle Prince recovered from an Achilles problem in time to make the team.
Eighteen-year-old midfielder Olivia Smith is among the notable World Cup rookies on the roster. The veterans are led by 40-year-old captain Christine Sinclair, who will be taking part in her sixth World Cup and trying to add to her all-time record of 190 international goals.
The Canadian team, ranked seventh in the world, is currently in camp on Australia’s Gold Coast. Canada will play a final warmup match Friday vs. No. 4 England before facing No. 40 Nigeria on July 20, No. 22 Ireland on July 26 and No. 10 host Australia on July 31.