Canada’s quest to defend their Olympic bronze medal in women’s soccer begins on Wednesday against Australia.
Two days ahead of the Opening Ceremonies in Rio, head coach John Herdman’s team will take to the pitch for their first of three group-stage games—and possibly their most intriguing one.
Both Canada and Australia reached the quarterfinals of last summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, and both teams are among the world’s top 10 in FIFA’s most recent rankings (Australia at No. 5, Canada at No. 10).
And both teams are being led into Rio by their talismanic captains. In the Aussies’ case, it’s 31-year-old forward Lisa De Vanna, whose 38 national-team goals are second all-time among Australian women. She is also the only player remaining from the Australians’ last Olympic appearance, back at Athens 2004.
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In the Canadians’ case it is, of course, Christine Sinclair. The 33-year-old forward from Burnaby, B.C. was the top scorer at London 2012 (including a hat trick in the memorable semi-final against the USA), and her remarkable count of 162 international goals is the second most all-time by any player for any national team.
Both teams also have young goal-scorers looking to impress in their Olympic debuts.
For Australia, it will be 25-year-old Kyah Simon, who scored three times at the 2015 World Cup, while Canada will turn to 21-year-old Janine Beckie, who has eight goals in her last 14 games for Canada, dating back to December 2015.
And both teams will have some big-time youth representation on their 18-player Olympic rosters.
It should be a back-and-forth battle between two highly similar teams that both have plenty on the line. Canada and Australia share Group F with the heavily favoured German team and Olympic debutantes Zimbabwe, who will come in as underdogs.
Australia enters the competition with lots of momentum and goodwill, while Canada has the recent Olympic pedigree. Both teams want to be in the knockout stage in Rio, and this match will play a big part in determining whether they get there.