Canada will play Switzerland and Norway in advance of the Algarve Cup in late February as it ramps up preparations for the Women’s World Cup in France this summer.
Kenneth Heiner-Moller’s fifth-ranked Canadian team will open 2019 with two matches in Spain, starting with a closed-door training match against No. 18 Switzerland on Jan. 17 before an international friendly match Jan. 22 against No. 13 Norway in La Manga.
The Canadian women will then head to Portugal for the Algarve Cup. Canada faces No. 22 Iceland on Feb. 27 and No. 20 Scotland on March 1 before playing a final match March 6 to determine final ranking.
“This year is all about preparing for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, so we are eager to get together in Europe and continue the momentum we built throughout 2018,” Heiner-Moller said in a statement. “Switzerland and Norway are both difficult sides, so these two matches will serve as an excellent opportunity to test ourselves against strong European opponents.”
The players have started gathering in Cadiz, Spain, for a training camp.
The 23-women roster features four teenagers: forward Jordyn Huitema and fullback Jayde Riviere (both 17), midfielder Julia Grosso (18) and forward Deanne Rose (19).
Veterans include captain Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt, Stephanie Labbe and Desiree Scott, who have a combined 641 caps.
Ottawa defender Vanessa Gilles, who plays for Les Girondins de Bordeaux in France, makes her first appearance at a national team camp.
Missing are veteran goalkeeper Erin McLeod and attacking midfielder Diana Matheson, who are said to have been held out as a precaution after long-term injuries. The two have 317 caps between them.
The roster features seven European-based players — soon to be eight with forward Adriana Leon headed to England’s West Ham United.
Seven of the 12 teams at this year’s Algarve Cup have qualified for the World Cup: Canada, China, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Spain and Sweden. The other five teams taking part are Denmark, Iceland, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland.
Canada, which won the Algarve Cup in 2016 and was runner-up in 2017, finished fifth last year with a 3-1-0 record.
The Canadian Soccer Association says more friendlies will be announced in the spring.
The Canadian women have been drawn in a World Cup group with the seventh-ranked Netherlands, No. 19 New Zealand and No. 46 Cameroon. The tournament runs June 7 to July 7.
Canada opens June 10 against Cameroon in Montpellier before facing New Zealand on June 15 in Grenoble and the Netherlands on June 29 in Reims.
Stephanie Labbe, Stony Plain, Alta., Linkopings FC (Sweden); Sabrina D’Angelo, Welland, Ont., North Carolina Courage (NWSL); Kailen Sheridan, Whitby, Ont., Sky Blue FC (NWSL)
Allysha Chapman, Courtice, Ont., Houston Dash (NWSL); Kadeisha Buchanan, Brampton, Ont., Olympique Lyonnais (France); Shelina Zadorsky, London, Ont., Orlando Pride (NWSL); Ashley Lawrence, Caledon, Ont., Paris Saint-Germain (France); Lindsay Agnew, Kingston, Ont., Houston Dash (NWSL); Jayde Riviere, Markham, Ont., Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite; Vanessa Gilles, Ottawa, Les Girondins de Bordeaux (France); Shannon Woeller, Vancouver, Eskilstuna United DFF (Sweden).
Jenna Hellstrom, Sudbury, Ont., Vaxjo DFF (Sweden).
Rebecca Quinn, Toronto, Washington Spirit (NWSL); Julia Grosso, Vancouver, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite; Desiree Scott, Winnipeg, Utah Royals FC (NWSL); Sophie Schmidt, Abbotsford, B.C. (unattached); Jessie Fleming, London, Ont., UCLA (NCAA).
Deanne Rose, Alliston, Ont., University of Florida (NCAA); Jordyn Huitema, Chilliwack, B.C., Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite; Christine Sinclair (capt.), Burnaby, B.C., Portland Thorns (NWSL); Nichelle Prince, Ajax, Ont., Houston Dash (NWSL); Janine Beckie, Highlands Ranch, Colo., Manchester City (England); Adriana Leon, King City, Ont., unattached.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press