Canada players worked individually at their own pace, as they looked relaxed at training on Wednesday ahead of its FIFA Women’s World Cup opener against Nigeria’s Super Falcons.
Coach Bev Priestman was all smiles as she met the media.
“We’re here and we’re excited and we’re ready to go,” she said.
“We’ve kept it fresh. I’ve talked a lot about being fresh and being fresh when it really matters later in the tournament. And everything we’ve done has been designed that way.
“So absolutely the fun you’ve seeing them have, I think this team is at its best when it’s having fun.”
Priestman, downplaying an injury question.
“A few players are on their own individual plan.
“Today was a light day. You would have seen Deanne, Nichelle doing some specific work on their rehab. So yeah, I think Jessie should be fine.”
The Canadian women had won five straight going into their final match of 2022 when Prince was taken off in a stretcher in a 2-1 loss to Brazil in November in São Paulo.
Veteran midfielder Sophie Schmidt was a picture of calm Wednesday despite acknowledging the Canadian women “have always underperformed at the World Cup.”
“We know what we’re capable of. We know what our goals are. We’re very clear on that. But we need to get the job done Day 1 to set ourselves up for success,” she said. “So we’re very focused on the Nigeria game.”
The Nigerians have had their own pre-tournament issues, unhappy with the lack of support from their federation.
Nigeria has won 11 of the 15 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations since its inception in 1991. The Super Falcons won the first seven tournaments did not drop a point until the fourth edition in 2000 and didn’t lose their first game until 2002.
But Nigeria finished fourth at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, losing to eventual runner-up Morocco in a penalty shootout in the semi-final and 1-0 to Zambia in the third-place game. The top four teams qualified for the World Cup.
With every other edition of the tournament serving as a World Cup qualifier, Nigeria has qualified for all nine editions of the soccer showcase. The Super Falcons have made the knockout round just twice, however, losing to Brazil in the 1999 quarter-finals in 1999 and Germany in the round of 16 in 2019.