Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women’s international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England on April 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rui Vieira

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women’s international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England on April 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rui Vieira

Canada coach Bev Priestman hopes to see improved performance against Brazil

Priestman will likely field a more senior lineup to start Monday

After taking a “little bit of a step backwards” in a scoreless draw against the Czech Republic, Canada coach Bev Priestman wants to see improvements against Brazil on Monday in her team’s final outing before the Olympic roster is finalized.

Preparations for the Canadian women’s friendly in Cartagena, Spain, were affected by the harrowing scene Saturday in Copenhagen where Danish star Christian Eriksen collapsed in a Euro 2020 game against Finland. The Danish team doctor said Eriksen, now recovering in hospital, had suffered a cardiac arrest on the field.

Priestman said the incident occurred just as her players were finishing dinner.

“We were due to have a preview meeting on Brazil. I took the decision to delay that meeting until (Sunday) because I just felt it really struck home,” Priestman told a virtual news conference. “If I’m a player and I’m watching that, that could be me.

“We put a support network around the players last night, this morning. And they found it really difficult as they would … For us, our thoughts are obviously with him, his family, and wish him a great recovery. But yeah absolutely, I think it did rattle the players for sure. We just gave them time and space to deal with something like that. It was difficult for the world to watch.”

Priestman has 28 players in camp, not counting injured forward Janine Beckie. She plans to cut that down to the mandated Olympic roster of 18, plus four alternates, as soon as possible after the Brazil match.

The coach was disappointed in what she called a poor showing against the 27th-ranked Czech Republic, unhappy at her team’s inability to finish chances. She attributed that in part to some new partnerships in the lineup but said she wanted more.

Priestman will likely field a more senior lineup to start Monday, but says she will introduce other players as the game wears on to help with her final team selection.

“There’s decisions to be made all over the pitch,” she said. “I think that’s (the) reality and it’s a credit to the group. Of course, I’m more sure in some areas and of some players.”

“I have to answer those questions by the end of this camp,” she added. “There’s a whole other game to play for. I think all the players know that. Training sessions have been intense, in a good way.”

She said her message to the players, however, is they’re not being judged on just one game.

The eighth-ranked Canadian women are 8-9-7 all-time against the seventh-ranked Brazilians, a record that includes a 2-1 Canada victory in the bronze medal match at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Canada lost 2-0 to Brazil last time out at the SheBelieves Cup in Florida in February.

“They’re a big threat but as the same time I get excited about what we could do with the ball against Brazil, if we’re brave and do better than what we did against the Czech,” said Priestman. “For me it was a little bit of a step backwards in what I saw against the Czechs — ball speed, bravery to play forward, to run forward … But I would like to take a step forward with the ball, in us punishing Brazil.”

“We’ve got to punish teams,” she added.

Priestman said Beckie, who has gone home, will be ready for the Olympics. “She felt something,” she said of the injury, without elaborating.

Once the Olympic roster is named, Priestman will reconvene the squad for a camp at the end of the month before heading to Japan and potentially one final warmup match. Canada opens the Tokyo Olympics on July 21 against host Japan before facing Chile and Britain.

NOTES: The Canadian women are 3-2-1 this year with wins over No. 6 England, No. 32 Wales and No. 35 Argentina … Canada captain Christine Sinclair, who celebrated her 38th birthday Saturday, is in line to earn cap No. 299 Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2021

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