Sophie Schmidt tested in defence as Canada warms up for Women’s World Cup

Better known as a midfielder, Sophie Schmidt has played in the Canadian backline at the Algarve Cup.

The 30-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., lined up on the left of a back three with Kadeisha Buchanan and Rebecca Quinn in the fifth-ranked Canadians’ 0-0 draw with No. 22 Iceland. Shelina Zadorsky came in for Quinn in the subsequent 1-0 win over No. 20 Scotland.

“It was great. I love it,” Schmidt said of the move into defence. “Especially (since) I’m the type of player that loves the passing game. And so I have the whole field in front of me, I can literally pick my pass.

“It’s the defensive bit that is a bit uncomfortable. You’re kind of the last line of defence before the goal so there’s some stress. But I’m learning the ropes and I have Kadeisha Buchanan beside me, so I can’t really go wrong. She’s got my back.”

The 23-year-old Buchanan, who already has 84 caps, anchors the Canada defence. A two-time Canadian Player of the Year, Buchanan plays club soccer for French powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais.

Schmidt and the Canadian women face No. 9 Sweden for third place at the Algarve Cup on Wednesday in Almancil, Portugal. No. 34 Poland faces No. 13 Norway in the championship game in Parchal.

For Canada captain Christine Sinclair, it’s a chance to add to her international goal total. The 35-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., scored No. 179 against Scotland, moving her within five of retired American Abby Wambach’s world record.

Schmidt says she isn’t sure whether the positional switch is permanent or whether coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller is just looking for options ahead of this summer’s World Cup in France. The move to a back three allows Heiner-Moller to utilize Janine Beckie and Ashley Lawrence at wingback.

Schmidt is willing to do what’s needed.

It’s just one of many recent changes for the veteran of 179 internationals.

In December, Schmidt married New Zealand actor/singer Nic Kyle. The couple have made Vancouver their home and Schmidt, after several years in Germany with FFC Frankfurt, is planning a return to the NWSL this year.

“I loved playing in Germany. The soccer side is just phenomenal. It was just that Nic couldn’t live or work in Germany and we decided we didn’t want to spend the majority of the year apart.”

An announcement on her new club is expected soon.

First up is Sweden, however.

“A tough game. Sweden’s a good opponent,” said Schmidt. “They beat us (3-1) last year in the Algarve Cup so we have that in the back of our minds. I think it was a bit of a naive performance from us. We overplayed.

“We’ve come a long way since then, but Sweden will definitely cause us a lot more problems than both Iceland and Scotland did. We need to be prepared for that. We’re going to have to just sharpen up defensively and then make the most of our chances in front of net because we’re not going to have as many as we have had the past two games.”

Canada has a career 5-13-3 record against Sweden, although it is 2-1-2 in the last five meetings. The Swedes are also World Cup-bound.

Canada won the tournament in 2016 and was runner-up in 2017.

The Canadian women finished fifth last year after beating Japan 2-0 in their final match. Canada, second to Sweden in Group B with a 2-1-0 record, was consigned to the fifth-place game after finishing as the second-best runner-up behind Portugal (2-0-1).

The championship game between Sweden and the Netherlands was cancelled due to heavy rain. Both teams were awarded first place.

After the Algarve Cup, Canada will face fourth-ranked England on April 5 in Manchester in another World Cup warmup.

Canada has been drawn in a group with the seventh-ranked Netherlands, No. 19 New Zealand and No. 46 Cameroon at the World Cup, which starts June 7.

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