Canada’s women’s soccer team is in great shape as it prepares to head to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics, according to head coach Bev Priestman.
The Canadians are currently training in California but will be heading to Tokyo Thursday to prepare for the pandemic-delayed Games that officially open July 23.
“I feel like we’re getting some real work done, on the pitch, off the pitch,” said Priestman during a media call Monday. “So, so far really really good. I feel like we’re moving forward. The group feel great, there is a great culture.
“I think when you have less players there’s a better connection. And so far it’s been brilliant.”
Canada focused on preparations, not medals
Canada opens the Olympics tournament group stage against hosts Japan July 21, a couple days before the Olympics officially open. They then face Chile and Great Britain.
And the Canadian squad is confident of improving on the two bronze medals they’ve won in the previous two Olympics.
But before she gets distracted by the latter stages of the tournament and what colour of medal her players may eventually be playing for, Priestman says her focus is firmly set on the next two weeks of preparation, which will include a closed-doors match against an unnamed top-10 team.
“I think here in L.A., we focus more on like tournament strategy,” she said. “So PKs (penalty kicks), VAR (Virtual Assistant Referee), chasing the game, closing the game, all of those sorts of things that come into play when you’re in a tournament setting.
“And as we land in Japan, in four days time, we’ll start gearing up towards the specific opposition. We’re drip-feeding that in as we go, but that’s sort of been the main focus here in L.A. and getting us ready and confident partnerships and primed for that first opening game.”
Preparing for hot summer
And special attention has been given to preparing physically for the expected hot Japan summer.
“So for the last two camps, Spain (and) L.A., I think the heat training was a big part of that decision,” said Priestman. “The group have been training their guts to take on more fluids, slushies.
“So everything we’re doing is designed to basically help us the best we can in Japan. So, I think we’ve adapted well. We adapted well in Spain. So yeah, everything we’re doing has a purpose.”
Priestman excited to face group stage opponents
But Priestman also has an eye on Canada’s first three opponents and is looking forward to implementing the strategies she and her staff have developed for them.
“I think the staff have worked really, really hard as a technical team to make sure we’re fully across the strengths and weakness of every player and what we need going into that.
“I think we all know it is not a given. I don’t think now in the women’s game any game’s a given. (But) I do get excited, when I watch all three (group) opponents, about what we could do as well as taking care of some of their strengths.”