The Canadians will face Australia, Ireland and Nigeria at the 2023 FIFA World Cup

Minutes after learning about her side’s journey to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Canadian coach Bev Priestman was watching the draw in depth.

Minutes after learning about her side’s journey to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Canadian coach Bev Priestman was watching the draw in depth.

The seventh-seeded Canadians avoided some of the tournament heavyweights by being drawn with co-hosts Australia, Ireland and Nigeria in Group B.

13th-placed Australia were the second-lowest-ranked team the Olympic champions Canadians could have faced in Pot 1. Only co-hosts New Zealand, 22nd-placed, had a lower seeding in the pot containing the co- hosts and best seeds.

And Priestman’s side are familiar with Australia and number 45 Nigeria, having played both twice this year. Ireland, ranked 24th, will make their World Cup debut.

“I’m excited,” Priestman, speaking from Auckland, said of Saturday’s draw. “It could be worse, it could be better.

The top two from each pool will advance to the Round of 16, with the Group B winner facing the Group D runner-up and the Group B runner-up facing the Group D winner.

That means a possible tough date with England No.4, China No.15 or Denmark No.18.

The expanded field of 32 countries created a more benign landing zone for most top teams. But Group D is one of the toughest quarters and the Canadian Olympic champion will have to pull through to reach the quarter-finals.

Priestman said the aim will be to win the group, to avoid a likely meeting with in-form England, who beat the top-ranked Americans last month.

Canada beat Australia twice in September, 1-0 and 2-1 in Brisbane and Sydney respectively, and are 6-2-2 against the Matildas this century. Having just played Down Under, he also knows what to expect.

The Canadians won their only meeting with Ireland, 2-1 in 2014.

But the draw did Canada a disservice in number 45 Nigeria, the highest-seeded team in Pot 4. The Super Falcons have never missed a World Cup and reached the quarter-finals in 1999.

Canada are 2-1-2 all-time against Nigeria, recording a 2-0 win and a 2-2 tie when they met in two games in April in British Columbia

“Nigeria are a very difficult team to play,” Priestman said.

Two of their first clashes came at previous World Cups. The two teams drew 3-3 at the 1995 tournament and Canada lost 1-0 to Nigeria in a disastrous performance at the 2011 competition where they finished last.

Next year’s opener will see New Zealand take on Norway in Auckland and Australia take on Ireland in Sydney, both on July 20 (local time).

The Canadians will play their first-round matches in Australia, starting against Nigeria on July 21 in Melbourne. Canada will next face Ireland on July 26 in Perth before meeting Australia on July 31 in Melbourne.

The draw means Canada will play all of its matches in Australia, including the knockout rounds.

Germany (3rd) or France (5th) could wait for Canada in the quarter-finals

This is the first Women’s World Cup to be held in two countries, the first with an expanded field of 32 countries, up from 24, and the first in the southern hemisphere.

“It’s getting real!!!” Canadian defender Vanessa Gilles tweeted.

The 64-match tournament is scheduled to take place until August 20 at 10 different venues in nine different cities – five cities in Australia and four in New Zealand.

Priestman and Canada Soccer General Secretary Earl Cochrane were present for the draw, along with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Anika Wells, Australian Federal Minister for Sport Anika Wells. Canadian Victor Montagliani, president of CONCACAF and vice-president of FIFA, was also present.

The trophy was also there, brought by former USA coach Jill Ellis, who won it in 2015 and 2019.

Former players Carli Lloyd, Alexi Lalas, Gilberto Silva and Ian Wright were among those who took part in Saturday’s ceremony at the Aotea Center in Auckland.

The 29 qualified teams as well as three places still to be filled were divided into four pots per seed for the draw.

Canada was placed in Pot 2, which also included eighth-placed Netherlands, No. 9 Brazil, No. 11 Japan, No. 12 Norway, No. 14 Italy, China, No. 15 and South Korea, No. 17.

In addition to the tournament co-hosts, Pot 1 included top-ranked USA, No. 2 Sweden, No. 3 Germany, No. 4 England, No. 5 France and Spain. #6.

Canada have been kept out of the USA and fellow CONCACAF teams Costa Rica and Jamaica under FIFA’s ‘general principle’ that no group has more than one team from the same confederation.

This does not apply to Europe, due to the number of possible participants – 11 or possibly 12 depending on the playoff tournament.

The Philippines, Morocco, Vietnam and Zambia will also make their Women’s World Cup debuts.

Vietnam, ranked 34th, land in the deep end with an opener against the four-time champion United States

At the 2019 World Cup in France, Canada was drawn in a group with the Netherlands, Cameroon and New Zealand. The Canadians finished second to the Dutch in the group and lost 1-0 to Sweden in the round of 16.

The Canadians are 10-2-3 this year and have won four straight since losing 1-0 to the USA in the CONCACAF W Championship final in Mexico in July.

Canada’s best result at the World Cup was fourth in 2003.

The three remaining teams for the 2023 competition will come from the 10-team Inter-Confederation Playoff Tournament, scheduled for February 17-23 in Auckland.

The field includes two teams from Asia (Chinese Taipei and Thailand), two from Africa (Cameroon and Senegal), two from CONCACAF (Haiti and Panama), two from South America (Chile and Paraguay), one from Oceania (Papua New Guinea) and one from Europe (Portugal).

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 22, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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