It will be deja-vu for Canada at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France after drawing two teams — the Netherlands and New Zealand — that it faced at the 2015 tournament on home soil.
The Canadians will also play Cameroon, a team they have never faced before, in Group E round-robin play next summer.
Canada tied the Dutch 1-1 and New Zealand 0-0 in the 2015 World Cup, when it went on finish sixth after losing 2-1 to England in the quarterfinals. Canada’s best showing at the tournament was fourth place in 2003.
While Canada’s combined record against its three opening-round opponents is 15-1-7, tougher foes wait. If the rankings hold, Canada could meet No. 8 Japan or No. 9 Sweden in the round of 16. No. 6 Australia is a potential quarterfinal foe with No. 2 Germany a possible semifinal matchup.
“It’s hard to say if it’s good or bad,” Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said of the opening-round draw. “The best thing is now it’s done. Now we know exactly who we’re going to play.
“I think the Netherlands will be a tough match, a real tough match. I watched them a few times on the way to winning the European title and they looked very good … It’s a country that’s definitely improving but also a team I think we can beat.”
The World Cup runs June 7 to July 7 in nine French cities.
Canada will open June 10 against Cameroon in Montpellier before facing New Zealand in Grenoble on June 15 and the Netherlands in Reims on June 20.
Coaches, players and celebrities converged on Paris for Saturday’s draw at La Seine Musicale arts centre.
Mia Hamm, Didier Deschamps, Kaka, Steffi Jones, Michael Essien, Alex Scott, Aya Miyama, Louis Saha and Carli Lloyd took part in the draw, which four years ago, the draw was held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.
Heiner-Moller and Canadian Soccer Association president Steven Reed were among those carrying the Canadian colours along with Ashley Lawrence, who plays her club soccer for Paris Saint-Germain.
The six groups, headed by the top-ranked defending champion U.S., No. 2 Germany, No. 3 France, No. 4 England, No. 5 Canada and No. 6 Australia are pretty even.
The winners and runners-up from each groups plus the four best third-placed teams advance to the knockout round.
Add up the ranking of the top three teams in each group and the totals range from 29 (Group B) to 39 (Group F). Canada’s Group E totals 31.
The Canadians are 9-0-3 against the Dutch, winning 2-1 in the most recent meeting — in 2016 prior to the Rio Olympics. The Dutch made it to the round of 16 at the 2015 tournament, losing 2-1 to Japan.
The Dutch, the top-ranked team in Pot B at the draw, shared 2018 Algarve Cup honours with Sweden after the final was called off due to poor weather. Canada was fifth at the tournament.
The Netherlands defeated England 3-0 in the European championship semfinals before dispatching Denmark 4-2 in the final. Coach Sarina Wiegman, who won more than 100 caps as a player, was named FIFA women’s coach of the year as a result and Heiner-Moller notes Dutch players are now playing for some of the top club teams in Europe.
Canada is 6-1-4 against New Zealand. The teams haven’t played since the 0-0 draw at the 2015 tournament in Edmonton. Canada’s only loss to New Zealand was in 2000.
“A team we should beat,” said Heiner-Moller, while praising a physical New Zealand side for its “huge heartbeat.”
“It’s about finding the right medicine for that. I think we’ve got it.”
The Football Ferns won the Oceania Women’s Nations Cup, winning all five matches while outscoring it opposition 43-0. New Zealand is led by veteran Scottish coach Tom Sermanni, who was an assistant coach with Canada under John Herdman at the 2015 World Cup.
Cameroon qualified by finishing third in Africa, defeating Mali 4-2. The Africans are somewhat of a mystery package although Heiner-Moller said he expects a physical hard-working side after seeing Cameroon’s under-17 team at the recent FIFA U-17 World Cup
“Certainly not an easy group we have but it’s a group that will help us prepare as we move forward in the tournament,” said Canada Soccer Association general secretary Peter Montopoli.
The Group E winner will face the runner-up in Group D which features England, Scotland, Argentina and Japan while the Group E runner-up will meet the second-place team in Group F, comprised of the U.S., Sweden, Chile and Thailand.
The 2015 tournament drew total attendance of 1,353,506, a record for a FIFA competition other than the men’s World Cup.
The four pots for Saturday’s draw were allocated based on world rankings with Canada in the elite Pot 1. Canada was ranked eighth in the world going into the 2015 tournament but was slotted into Pot 1 for the draw as host country.
For Heiner-Moller, the only certainty was that his team won’t be drawn with Jamaica, which is also in CONCACAF. Teams from the same confederation couldn’t be placed in the same group, with the exception of Europe, which has nine entries in the 24-country field.
The Reggae Girlz, at No 53, were the lowest-ranked team in the field.
There could no more than two European teams in one group, meaning three groups had two European teams and the other three just one.
Chile, Jamaica, Scotland and South Africa are making their first World Cup appearance.
Brazil, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden and the U.S. have taken part in every World Cup since the tournament’s inception in 1991. Canada failed to qualify for the first tournament, which featured just 12 teams with the U.S. as the lone CONCACAF representative.
World Cup Draw (with world rankings)
Group A: France (3), South Korea (14), Norway (13), Nigeria (39)
Group B: Germany (2), China (15), Spain (12), South Africa (48)
Group C: Australia (6), Italy (16), Brazil (10), Jamaica (53)
Group D: England (4), Scotland (20), Argentina (36), Japan (8)
Group E: Canada (5), Cameroon (46), New Zealand (19), Netherlands (7)
Group F: U.S. (1), Thailand (29), Chile (38), Sweden (9)
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press