Women's World Cup 2023: 6 key takeaways from Canada's group stage exit

Despite entering the Women's World Cup as Olympic champions, Canada didn't make it out of the group stage.

Despite entering the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup as Olympic champions, Canada failed to make it out of the group stage.

Les Rouges drew 0-0 with Nigeria, won 2-1 over the Republic of Ireland, and lost 4-0 to Australia. With the result, Bev Priestman's side finished third in Group B and were sent packing.

But there's no rest in international soccer, as the Canadians will play a Paris 2024 Olympic qualifier against Jamaica in Toronto next month. The team will have to pick themselves up — and quickly.

Here are six key takeaways from Canada's World Cup campaign ahead of their Olympic qualifier this fall.

Canada must work on being clinical

For many years, Canada relied on Christine Sinclair to find the back of the net.

However, while the top international goal-scorer is as passionate and locked-in as ever, she's not the player she once was. The skipper just turned 40 years old, and is no longer able to make a splash for the full 90 minutes.

Amidst this time of transition, it's unclear which player is stepping up as the attacking threat. Jordyn Huitema has been tapped as Sinclair's heir, but has yet to find her timing in the box.

Adding to the issue is the fact Canada only scored one "real goal" this World Cup, thanks to Adriana Leon's 53rd-minute strike over the Girls in Green. Canada's second goal was an own goal courtesy of Ireland's Megan Connolly.

If Canada want to have a chance at the next Olympics, they'll need to deliver creative offence and create goal-scoring opportunities.

Christine Sinclair can no longer be the relied-upon goal scorer for Canada after the Women's World Cup. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Christine Sinclair can no longer be the relied-upon goal scorer for Canada after the Women's World Cup. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Lower-ranked teams cannot be underestimated

The Canadian women's national team has been known as one of the game's powerhouses. The team entered this summer's tournament ranked seventh and were projected to top Group B.

However, as this year's World Cup has demonstrated, the rest of the globe has caught up.

Germany (No. 2) and Brazil (No. 8) were eliminated alongside Canada in the group stage, while Morocco (No. 72), Jamaica (No. 43), Nigeria (No. 40) and Colombia (No. 25) advanced.

What becomes clear is that Canada's game and tactical plans need to be adapted. Playing a lower-ranked team no longer guarantees an easy win, but quite the opposite.

Starting strong will set the tone

In two of Canada's group stage matches, they conceded a goal in the first 10 minutes. Although they were able to secure three points in their clash with Ireland, Hayley Raso's ninth-minute strike proved lethal in their match with the Matildas.

Australia and Ireland's early goals came as a surprise to many Canadian soccer fans, who are used to seeing Priestman's backline as tight, tough and stable.

Moving forward, Canada will have to work on their energy and possession in the opening minutes. From there, it'll be about maintaining control until the final whistle.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26: Katie McCabe of Republic of Ireland (R) is chased by Jessie Fleming of Canada (L) during the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group B match between Canada and Ireland at Perth Rectangular Stadium on July 26, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Noemi Llamas/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Set pieces are important

This World Cup experience will give Priestman some much-needed insight into Canada's set-piece strategy.

When defending set pieces, Canada looked nervy and frantic in their box. Communication wasn't always there, and sometimes Les Rouges had a tough time clearing the ball and transitioning to an offensive opportunity. Although Katie McCabe's outstanding corner kick is unlikely to be repeated very easily, it's indicative of a defensive issue that must be addressed.

Offensively, the Canadians also need to take better advantage of set pieces for themselves. Against tough defensive teams like Jamaica, which Canada will face in the fall, having creative and clinical set pieces will give them the edge.

Canada's youth need to step up

In addition to looking outside of Sinclair's excellence, Canada has lost the ever-reliable Sophie Schmidt.

The 35-year-old was subbed on the pitch against Ireland and injected instant energy, in addition to assisting on Leon's goal. However, she wore the Canada kit for the last time against Australia, retiring from international soccer.

Considering this, Canada needs to consider who will step up and get the job done in high-pressure situations. Julia Grosso, Jessie Fleming and Jordyn Huitema come to mind, but failed to make it happen on the world stage this summer.

That said, Priestman can work on the connection between Fleming and Grosso in the midfield to Huitema and even Leon on attack during upcoming training sessions.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 31: Jordyn Huitema #9 of Canada controls the ball during the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group B match between Canada and Australia at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on July 31, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images)
Jordyn Huitema must work on getting the ball in the net for Canada. (Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images)

Mentality and communication is everything

Additionally, Canada's clear communication and fighting mentality wasn't consistent this World Cup.

There were glimmers of it, especially during the second half against Ireland. But anyone who follows this national team knows what the squad is capable of both mentally and physically.

But while Canada didn't perform as well as they would have liked this summer, there's still cause for celebration.

The national team still represented Canada at the sport's most prestigious tournament the best they could. They also gave many Canadian fans something to look forward to, and something to fight for.

Especially amidst the team's ongoing struggles with the federation, just appearing at the tournament, giving it their all, and inspiring people from around the world is something to remember fondly.