PARIS , France— Nichelle Prince will be making her debut at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but will not have the luxury of easing her way into the tournament.
As one of Canada’s starting strikers, Prince, 24, will be depended on to provide offence for a team that struggled to score in the buildup for the event.
Canada will be favoured to win its first two group games against Cameroon on June 10 in Montpellier and June 15 against New Zealand in Grenoble before facing the Netherlands on June 20 in Reims, in a game expected to determine the group winner.
“It’s exciting getting to go to your first World Cup, but we have a job to do and we have to make sure we’re focused and that’s when we can really make count on the veterans who have been at numerous World Cups at this point, because they know what it takes,” Prince said. “It’s not necessarily leaning on them, it’s taking their advice and trying to learn as much as we can about them to make sure we’re ready. They know what it takes, so we kind of have to rely on them in that area and show us the way and it’s good to have them.”
A product of Ajax, Ont., Prince has been with the senior national team since the end of 2015 and won bronze with Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She has 10 goals in 50 international appearances for her country.
“It’s definitely been a journey with this team,” she said. “I’ve been on the bench, I’ve come off the bench and now I’m being able to start for this team. I think my confidence is one thing, just knowing that I can compete at this level and I can do it game in and game out and being more dangerous.
“I’m getting on the ball more and doing dangerous things with it. I think being able to play pro, definitely has helped my game a lot, getting to play beside international, world-class players every week, that’s something that helps a lot.”
Canada is in it to win it at the World Cup, but is aware things can unravel extremely quickly in a short tournament.
Canada will be favoured in its opening game against Cameroon and have been preparing for the match at training camp in Spain before heading to France.
“It’s going to be a tough one for us, for sure, there is no easy game,” Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe said. “Each game is going to pose different threats to us and for sure that first game against Cameroon, they’re going to come out flying they’re an athletic team, they’re a lot more organized than they have been in the past and they have some really strong individual players that can pose, big, big threats to us.”
Cameroon is a team on the rise. The Lionesses are participating in their second World Cup, having qualified for the first time in Canada four years ago and making it out of the group stage. It finished second at the 2014 and 2016 African Women Cup of Nations and placed third last year.
Cameroon lost 4-0 to Spain in May, but have since pounded on some Spanish club teams, defeating Levante UD, 4-0, Murcia 8-0 and Alhama 4-0. Canada drew 0-0 with Spain in its final warmup match before the tournament.
“The key will to be to shut down individual players that can pose threats and at the same time, impose ourselves,” Labbe said. “We have to go out focusing on ourselves and what we can do to control the game and manage the game in our own way.”
Janine Beckie appears poised to be a breakout start at the World Cup.
The Canadian striker has been impressive in the lead-up to the tournament and had a strong end to her club season with Manchester City in England.
Beckie, 24, and Christine Sinclair, 35, have developed into a strong striking tandem when they play together. They’ll both be relied on heavily at the World Cup.
“Christine and I, we’ve had good connections since I came to the team a few years back, but she has good connections with everyone, she’s just an incredible player to play with,” Beckie said. “Her movement is world class, everything she does is world class, so she makes it easier on her teammates and when you put her in to score goals, she doesn’t miss too often. She’s about the best teammate you can play with and the best player you could ask for.”
Beckie’s talents and her ability to cover an enormous amount of ground give head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller options of where to play the budding star. She has been used up top as well as on the wing during the buildup to the World Cup.
She is probably most effective in the middle of the field, where they play can go through her. Beckie has become more of a playmaker than just an out-and-out striker.
“I think we have a lot of different systems and I move around in those systems sometimes,” Beckie said. “It’s just a style of play, so that’s something that I’ve definitely worked on since I’ve been at (Manchester) City. I think it’s something that’s been in my game for a long time, but when it’s trained every single day, it just comes more naturally in games.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019