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VAN DIEST: Disappointing pre-Olympic tuneup for Canadian women's national team

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The Canadian women’s national soccer team is still trying to work out the kinks heading towards the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

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On Friday, Canada was held to a 0-0 tie against the Czech Republic in Cartagena, Spain, in the first of two exhibition games this international window. Canada will play Brazil on Monday.

“For us it was a poor showing, I wasn’t happy with the performance,” Priestman said in a phone call after the contest. “Credit the clean sheet, we did well in that area, but I think given the circumstances with the players and the partnerships and rhythm, I hoped I would see a more brave and dominant performance than what I saw.”

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Canada dominated possession in the contest and should have won the match going away, but were unable to convert a number of quality opportunities.

Scoring has been an issue for the team for the past number of years despite having talented offensive players. Canada started Christine Sinclair, Adriana Leon and Nichelle Prince up front, and while they created good opportunities, they could not break down the Czech defence.

“We had moments where we showed what we could do, but we have to absolutely finish those chances,” Priestman said. “But it’s not something I’m going to be massively dissecting, because I think with some context there we have to turn it around for that Brazil game.”

Canada went into the game without star midfielder Janine Beckie, who sustained an injury in training. She will miss out on the game against Brazil as well.

“It (the injury) will take Janine out of this camp, but in terms of Olympic selection she’ll be fine for that,” Priestman said. “So, that’s the positive.”

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Priestman has a number of roster decisions to make before the team travels to Japan for the Olympic tournament. She can only carry 18 players and four alternates, which is fewer players than Canada took to the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.

Canada opens the Olympic tournament on July 21 against hosts Japan, then faces Chile three days later before rounding out the group stage against Great Britain on July 27. Canada won bronze at the previous two Olympic tournaments.

“I wouldn’t say this game gave me 100% or my answers and nor did I think it would,” Priestman said. “Whenever there are one-off games for players, it spurs them on to give everything they got. In the Brazil game I’ll use that in some way I’ll move towards some of the partnerships that I want to see, which hopefully, will bring a little bit more flow and rhythm that we had for three camps now.

“I think for part of that you’ll see more of that lineup that you’re used to. We’ll definitely going for that win, we want to win that game and I’ll definitely put out a team that I believe can beat Brazil and using part of that game to assess some players. “

The good news for Canada in the contest was the return of Leon after undergoing foot surgery in February. Leon, who plays club soccer for West Ham in England, played 57 minutes before being subbed off by Deanne Rose.

“I didn’t expect her to last as long as she did,” Priestman said. “I think she created things she gave it her absolute all and I think she worked hard to come in as fit as she could be. Based on all that context I thought she did really well.”

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Sinclair, who was injured in an exhibition game against Wales in April, played 65 minutes before making way for Evelyne Viens. Sinclair, 37, will be playing in her fourth Olympics, barring injury.

“To be honest I would have probably liked to have left her on, but I have that next match left in my mind,” Priestman said. “I knew I needed to get Christine on in this game, she had only played 30 minutes for us (in previous international window) and I wanted to get a rhythm and a flow for her. Christine will be playing a key role for us (at Olympics).”

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ANOTHER STEP ON ROAD TO QATAR

The Canadian men’s national team will play the first of a two-game, total-goal series against Haiti on Saturday.

Canada is travelling to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for the first leg of the series (5 p.m. ET, OneSoccer) and will then head to Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Ill., for the second leg Tuesday.

Canada needs to win the two-leg series to advance to the main eight-team Concacaf qualifying group. A loss would eliminate them from World Cup qualifying.

If Canada is able to get through to the final group of qualifying, it will play each team home and away for a total of 14 games. The top three teams in the standings earn a berth in Qatar, while the fourth-place team qualifies for a playoff with another region for another place in the World Cup.

Canada currently can not play matches at its BMO Field home in Toronto due to quarantine rules for travellers entering the country.

“We want to get through these two matches and then hopefully we’ll bring this team back home to its fans,” head coach John Herdman said. “I really hope it’s something we can do for this country because we have a hell of a lot of games coming if we can get through this.”

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