TORONTO — The Canadian women's soccer team takes a farewell bow at Toronto's BMO Field on Saturday, hopefully with a win over Mexico, before leaving Sunday for Europe and the World Cup.
Expectations are high.
The fifth-ranked Canadians are unbeaten this year (4-0-2) and have conceded just once. The team is 12-4-2 since coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller took over from John Herdman in January 2018 with the losses coming against elite opposition in the top-ranked Americans, No. 2 Germany, No. 4 France and No. 9 Sweden.
Captain Christine Sinclair is five goals away from breaking retired American Abby Wambach's world record of 184 international goals. And Heiner-Moller has assembled a versatile squad that is quietly confident it can beat any team on its day.
Canada will prepare for the 24-team World Cup, which starts June 7 in France, in Spain with a warmup game against No. 13 Spain in Pamplona. An intra-squad game is also planned in Europe.
"I think we're in very good shape," said Heiner-Moller. "We're very confident, but we also know if we start to get ahead of ourselves, then we lose all that we've actually built.
"We're going to the World Cup to see if we can stay there until (the final) July 7. But in the group stage we're taking every one of these matches very, very seriously. So group stage first and then let's see what happens."
The Canadian women open June 10 against No. 46 Cameroon in Montpellier before facing No. 19 New Zealand in Grenoble on June 15 and the eighth-ranked Netherlands in Reims on June 20.
Four years ago on home soil, Canada exited in the quarterfinals after a 2-1 loss to England.
Barring injury, Saturday's game against the 26th-ranked Mexicans is unlikely to impact Canada's World Cup campaign.
A few European-based players are not in the squad for the Mexico game, most notably defender Kadeisha Buchanan, whose Lyon team is in Saturday's Women's Champions League final against Barcelona in Budapest. But Heiner-Moller has a good handle on its roster, which has to be filed with FIFA by May 24. Canada Soccer plans to announce it soon after the deadline.
The Canadian team lost two veterans this week with news that midfielder Diana Matheson (toe) and goalkeeper (Erin McLeod) have been ruled out by injury. The two have a combined 321 caps for Canada.
"It's gutting," said midfielder Sophie Schmidt. "Mostly from a personal perspective, they've worked so hard to come back (from injury). Just for them to miss it is tough.
"As a team we're going to miss them. Diana is a leader on the field ... Erin's all passion. We're going to need other people to step up and fill the little gaps that they leave."
Canada all-time record against Mexico is 20-1-2. The one loss was costly, however, denying Canada a berth in the 2004 Olympics.
Canada won 3-2 the last time they met in February 2017 in Vancouver.
Heiner-Moller plans to use all his substitutes Saturday to give everyone on the match-day squad a chance to play on home soil.
Canada Soccer officials are hoping for a crowd of some 20,000.
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