Knowing already that it was to be separated from the U.S. in the preliminary round, Canada expected little drama out of Tuesday’s draw for next month’s CONCACAF Women’s Championship.
The ping-pong balls grouped fifth-ranked Canada with No. 33 Costa Rica, No. 71 Jamaica and No. 85 Cuba — teams that Canada is a combined 19-0-0 against and has outscored 90-6.
The regional soccer tournament, which runs from Oct. 4 to 17 in North Carolina and Texas, serves as a World Cup qualifier for North and Central America and the Caribbean.
“We come into this qualifier very well prepared about the opponents. But I think it will be one of these (things) 15-20 per cent about them and the rest is about us,” Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said diplomatically.
The other group features the top-ranked U.S., No. 25 Mexico, No. 50 Trinidad and Tobago, and Panama, which is unranked because it has been inactive for more than 18 months.
Top 3 qualify automatically
Heiner-Moller will use the group phase to prepare for the knockout phase when the stakes are considerably higher.
The top three finishers qualify automatically for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France while the fourth-place team will meet Argentina in a playoff to see who joins them.
The group winner will cross over to face the runner-up in the other group, meaning Canada will face Mexico if the rankings hold. The Canadians are 10-0-2 against Mexico since a 2-1 loss in 2004 that denied the Canadians a berth in the Athens Olympics.
Watch highlights of Canada’s win over Brazil:
That remains Canada’s only loss in 23 meetings (20-1-2) with Mexico.
The Canadian women have never lost to Costa Rica in 12 meetings (11-0-1), defeating the Central Americans 6-0 last time out in Toronto in June 2017. Canada is 6-0-0 against Jamaica and 1-0-0 against Cuba.
“I don’t mind us going into that tournament with that history,” said Heiner-Moller, a native of Denmark. “We are definitely going in there as favourites to win the group and favourites to also qualify, everyone knows that.
‘Not underestimating’ any team
“But I do have the biggest respect for all the teams in the World Cup qualifiers and I’m not underestimating one single opponent.”
The Americans have won the regional championship seven times, with Canada emerging victorious twice (1998 and 2010).
The Canadian women beat seventh-ranked Brazil 1-0 on Saturday in a friendly at Ottawa’s TD Place. The two teams met again in a closed-door match Tuesday evening.
Star midfielder Jessie Fleming missed the games with a twisted knee but is expected to be ready for the CONCACAF tournament. Forward Deanne Rose is also managing an injury.