Preview: Canada set to open Women’s World Cup against Cameroon

Canada WNT
PARCHAL, PORTUGAL — FEBRUARY 27: Christine Sinclair of Canada Women during the Algarve Cup Women match between Canada v Iceland at the Estadio Municipal da Bela Vista on February 27, 2019 in Parchal Portugal (Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images).

Montpellier, France (June 9, 2019) — The Canadian Women’s National team will begin their journey in France on Monday with an opening clash against Cameroon. The two sides are slated to play the opening match in Group E.

Group E consists of Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand and the Netherlands. New Zealand will take on the Netherlands Tuesday to complete Group E’s first set of matches. Canada come into the match as the clear favorites. However, Cameroon are certainly capable of stealing a point.

FiveThirtyEight.com’s match predictions give Canada a 74 percent chance to win the contest. Cameroon’s odds to win sit at a mere 8 eight percent and a draw being likely 18 percent.

Cameroon made their Women’s World Cup debut back in 2015, where they finished second in their group before losing in the Round of 16 to China. Meanwhile, Canada will look to build off of their quarterfinal finish back on home soil four years ago. Canada’s schedule only gets tougher from here on out. It’s important they take all three points from this match if they plan to win Group E.

Take a closer look: Canada

Les Rouges come into France on the back of a couple of decent pre-tournament results. Canada boast a 3-0 home win over Mexico and a 0-0 draw away in Spain as part of their Women’s World Cup tune up. In total, Canada are undefeated through nine competitive matches in 2019, posting a 5-4-0 record.

Meanwhile, Canada has only conceded once, while scoring eight goals during that span. Head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller hopes his side can continue that fine defensive form against a Cameroon side that struggled to create much offense in a 4-0 pre-tournament loss to Spain.

Game Plan

Tactically, Cameroon are a very big question mark heading into the tournament. Having played just one international match in May during their lead-up to France, it is unclear how Cameroon head coach Alain Djeumfa will have his team up line up on Monday.

With that being said, Canada need to stick to playing their game and not their opponent’s game. Canada has been solid defensively in the lead up to the Women’s World Cup and play a lot slower in attack. Canada should control the majority of possession, and it is important they don’t get too aggressive. Cameroon do have some quality players on their attack, and they can definitely hurt the Canadians on the counter. If Canada can limit Cameroon in transition, they should be able to win this match without too much concern.

Canada have real world class players on the attack, such as Christine Sinclair, Jessie Fleming and Janine Beckie. Eyes will be glued to see if at least one of them can find their way onto the scoresheet. It will be interesting to see how Heiner-Moller manages his team’s minutes. Will youngsters Deanne Rose and Jordyn Huitema see the field in France? This is Canada’s easiest game. If there ever was a time to involve your youngsters it would be now.

Player to Watch: Christine Sinclair

The seemingly never-aging Christine Sinclair is back representing Canada in her fifth World Cup. Sinclair, who is set to turn 36 on Wednesday, has her sights set not just on a World Cup win for her country, but a chance to get her name into the record books.

In her 282 caps for Canada, Sinclair has scored 181 goals. This puts her just three goals back of American soccer legend Abby Wambach for the all-time international goal scoring record. Of course, her main focus will be on helping the team succeed.

However, the goal scoring record will be a storyline that follows her around for the duration of the tournament. Sinclair is still world-class at an age where most players would be considering retirement. She will no doubt be a leader on and off the pitch for the Canadians in France.

Cameroon

Cameroon appointed their new head coach Alain Djeumfa back in January after Joseph Ndoko guided them through qualification. Not only are they unfamiliar with the coach, they have only played three international matches since the start of 2019. To top it all off, Cameroon found themselves on the wrong side of a 4-0 thrashing against Spain on their road to France.

The uncertainty of their system, coupled with that poor showing against Spain, solidify Cameroon’s status as underdogs in France. Cameroon qualified for the World Cup through their third-place finish in the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations.

A 4-2 win over Mali ensured Cameroon’s qualification to France. Cameroon enter the tournament as the third lowest ranked team in FIFA’s world rankings, at 46th. Only South Africa (48) and Jamaica (53) are lower.

Game Plan

In that 4-0 pre-tournament loss to Spain, the Cameroonians conceded 72 percent of possession. Of course, one game does not paint the entire picture of a team. However, with such limited data available, it is fair to assume Cameroon will apply those same tactics. They will try to hit teams on the counter-attack in this year’s World Cup.

This will mean Cameroon’s back line will have to be solid. Anchored by 35-year-old Christine Maine, Cameroon’s back line will not lack experience. Estelle Johnson recently committed to the program as well, receiving her first cap for Cameroon against Spain last month. The 30-year-old Johnson, who plays her club football with Sky Blue FC of the NWSL, will be expected to play a big role for Cameroon. Aurelle Awona, who plays for Dijon in France, will also play a role defensively for Cameroon. She started two matches four years ago for Cameroon.

On the attacking side, Cameroon will have to make the most of the opportunities they get against Canada. The Canadians impressive defensive record suggests Cameroon will struggle to break down Canada’s defense.

Featuring players like Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, and Allysha Chapman, Canada give even the best attacking units’ fits. Attackers Gabrielle Onguene and Ajara Nchout will have to take their chances if Cameroon want to take any points from this match. Onguene won the tittle of best player in the 2016 African Women’s Cup of Nations.

Player to Watch: Ajara Nchout

Nchout was crucial for Cameroon in World Cup qualifying, delivering two goals for Cameroon en route to qualification. The 26-year-old comes with plenty of experience, having played in both an Olympic Games and a World Championship already. Nchout spent some of her career in the NWSL with the Western New York Flash before moving on to Europe.

She now plays for Valerenga in Norway, where she is teammates with Sherida Spitse of the Netherlands, who Cameroon will play next after Canada. Nchout was named the 32nd best player at the 2019 World Cup by SBnation, and was the only Cameroonian ranked in their top 50.

Prediction: Canada 2, Cameroon 0

The Canadians are definitely the favorites, and they are capable of both a win and a clean sheet. Canada would love to continue that strong defensive record into the Women’s World Cup. Sinclair will look for her 182nd goal for Canada to move ever so closer to Wambach’s record. Overall, Canada has what it takes to control the game and defeat Cameroon to open their France 2019 campaign.

 

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