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DEREK VAN DIEST: Rematch against England will not necessarily heal old wounds for Canadian women's soccer squad

The HB Studios Sports Centre in Bridgewater is an example of what a fieldhouse can encompass. In addition to soccer, the facility is used for dozens of other activities.
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The pain still lingers for midfielder Desiree Scott and other members of the Canadian women’s national soccer team who lost to England in the quarter-final of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

A win against England in an exhibition game at the Academy Stadium in Manchester on Friday will not heal the wound of four years ago in Vancouver, but it would help in the buildup for this summer’s World Cup in France.

The game against England is one of two final exhibition matches before Canada opens the World Cup tournament June 10 against Cameroon in Montpellier, France. Canada will also host a sendoff match against Mexico on May 18 at Toronto’s BMO Field.

“That game resonates with me and it was super disappointing,” Scott said. “Obviously, this game is not necessarily a rematch, but we want to show that we’ve improved since that last World Cup. We’re not the same team we were then and they’re also not the same team. We’re both going toe-to-toe to show how we’ve improved and show what we have.”

Scott, Stephanie Labbe, Kadeisha Buchanan, Allysha Chapman, Ashley Lawrence, Jessie Fleming, Sophie Schmidt, Adriana Leon, and Christine Sinclair are the remaining members of the Canadian team that lost 2-1 to England four years ago.

Friday will be the first time Canada will play England since that World Cup quarter-final. Canada has a 5-7-0 record in 12 all-time meetings against England.

Scott, 31, a Winnipeg product, was playing her professional soccer in England at the time. She spent a season and half with the Notts County Ladies of the English Women’s Super League before leaving in 2016.

“It was an amazing experience, it was my first time playing overseas, it was completely new and out of my comfort zone being the homebody that I am,” Scott said. “I really enjoyed it. It’s a huge football culture over here, people were awesome and very friendly and they were really enjoyable.

“When I first got to the border, they asked what I was coming to England for? I would tell them I’m coming over to play soccer. They would say, ‘Sorry you can’t come in here, it’s football.’ Even in that sense at the border you could tell they just love their football. I feel like people’s lives revolved around it and even at our games there were always chants they were singing and just always being so supportive. It was really good.”

England went on to lose to Japan in the semifinal of the 2015 World Cup in heartbreaking fashion on an own-goal in injury time. They recovered from the loss to win the third-place game against Germany.

Since then, the women’s game has grown in England and the women’s national team is now third in the FIFA world rankings, two spots ahead of Canada.

“I know quite a few England players from playing against them in the league and a couple of my friends are on the team,” Scott said. “They’re also one of the best teams in the world, so it’ll be a great game for us leading up to this World Cup.”

Scott has since moved on and is now playing with the Utah Royal FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. She has made 139 senior appearance for her country heading into the game against England.

Canada has played five matches since losing 2-0 to the United States in the Concacaf Final in October. They played a scoreless tie against Switzerland in a training match and then defeated Norway 1-0 in an exhibition game in Spain in January. They were held to a scoreless tie against Iceland at the Algarve Cup in Portugal before defeating Scotland 1-0 and beating Sweden in a shootout, following a scoreless tie, to finish third in the tournament.

“Our plan is to go undefeated this year, that’s our goal,” Scott said. “England is an incredible test for us, they’re a Tier 1 test and I think they’re talented, fit all around, and they’re technically sound, so it’s really going to challenge us defensively, but it’s also going to challenge us on the ball.

“We want to be a defensive presence, that’s in the Canadian DNA, but we also want to show people that we can keep possession, we can score goals, we can attack with pace and have an exciting buildup. I think for us, it will show us where we are right now, especially being a few months out from the World Cup.”

NEW AGREEMENT

Prior to heading to England it was announced Canada Soccer and the players’ association representing the women’s national team have come to a two-year compensation agreement running through 2020.

The agreement covers payments to players along with compensation of image rights, travel and accommodation costs. Having the agreement in place allows players on the national team to focus on soccer.

“We have some good veteran players like Diana Matheson handling that,” Scott said. “I’m thankful they pushed for things they think we deserve and the fact we don’t have to worry going into the tournament. All we have to do is focus on winning as the main thing and we’ve done it in a timely manner and, overall, we’re happy that we’ve come together for an agreement, for sure.”

Fair compensation is what female athletes have been battling to obtain for years. In the United States, the women’s national soccer team filed a lawsuit against their federation for institutional wage discrimination.

“I think Canada, especially, has rallied behind this team and I think us as women and as a team that has done well in the past, we have to keep pushing those boundaries and asking for what we deserve,” Scott said. “I think we’ve made a step in the right direction.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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