Canada takes on Cuba on Monday night in its second game of the group stage of the Concacaf Women’s Championship.
Here’s what you need to know about the match.
AN OPENING WIN FOR CANADA
Canada began its quest to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 2-0 win over Jamaica last Friday in Edinburg, Texas.
Nichelle Prince scored both goals for Canada, while goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé earned her 22nd clean sheet.
“It’s really great to finally get to start the tournament, and this was not an easy game, Jamaica. They put a good team out there and they worked really hard, and defended as well,” said Prince, who has nine goals in 40 appearances for Canada.
Monday night’s contest in Texas will be the second meeting between Canada and Cuba. The Reds defeated the Cubans 2-0 in Vancouver during the Concacaf qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics.
While Canada is a regular participant at the Concacaf Women’s Championship, this year marks Cuba’s tournament debut.
“We’re not taking any team for granted, and it’s great to see other nations in the tournament and play against different opponents,” Canadian defender Shelina Zadorsky said.
“We’re looking forward to the next challenge.”
Two Cuban players Canada should keep close tabs on are forwards Yennifer Ramos and Maria Perez, who was the team’s top scorer during qualifying with nine goals.
SINCLAIR CHASING HISTORY
Canadian captain Christine Sinclair is the second-highest goal scorer in the history of international women’s soccer with 173 goals. She trails retired U.S. player Abby Wambach, the current record holder with 184.
Considering Cuba gave up eight goals in its first game of the tournament, this could be a chance for Sinclair to cut loose and close in on Ambach’s record.
A REMINDER ABOUT HOW THE TOURNAMENT WORKS
Eight nations are divided into two round-robin groups, with the top two teams in each advancing to the semifinals.
From there, the two finalists automatically qualify for next summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. The winner of the tournament’s third-place game will also qualify for the World Cup.
The fourth-place team will meet Argentina in a playoff at a later time with a World Cup berth at stake.
CANADA 2ND IN GROUP B
Although Canada (ranked No. 5 in the world) and Costa Rica (No. 34) both won their opening group stage games, the Reds sit second in Group B because Costa Rica has a better goal-difference (plus-8 vs. plus-2), which is the first tiebreaker. Costa Rica beat Cuba 8-0 in its opening game.
Jamaica (No. 64) and Cuba (No. 88) are tied at the bottom of the group with zero points.
GROUP A STANDINGS
The United States (ranked No. 1 in the world) won its first two games by a combined scored of 11-0, and sit atop Group A with six points.
Panama (No. 66) and Mexico (No. 24) are tied for second place at three points apiece. Trinidad and Tobago (No. 52) is bottom of the group.
Canada plays Costa Rica on Thursday in the group stage finale. If both sides with their respective games today, Thursday’s match will decide who finishes in first place in Group B.
That’s important because the U.S. is likely going to win Group A, so the winner of Group B will avoid the top-ranked Americans in the semifinals.
“The expectation going in is we see ourselves winning our group, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy,” veteran midfielder Sophie Schmidt told Sportsnet.