Priestman: Canada want to go from bronze to gold

  • Bev Priestman returned to Canada as head coach in October

  • She was No2 when the team won a second straight bronze in Rio

  • Priestman tells she’s confident in her side’s podium prospects

Bev Priestman was in the dugout when Canada won bronze at the last Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, and she will be there once again as they mark their return against hosts Japan on Wednesday. But plenty of water has passed under the bridge in the intervening period. The 35-year-old returns to the Olympic stage not as John Herdman’s No2, but as head coach – having returned via a spell alongside Phil Neville with her native England. And while Canada made history, and were widely seen to have outperformed expectations, by clinching a second successive podium place in Rio, Priestman is aiming not merely to emulate that achievement – but surpass it.

Priestman on…

... her state of mind as the Olympics beckons “Really excited. The fact we’re playing the host team in our opening match only adds to that excitement. I’ve been working with this group now for nine months and it feels like this tournament has got here really quickly. Now we just want to get the first game under way. We’re conscious too that we’re a team that tends to grow into tournaments and, while this game will be a great starting point, it’s not the end point. We will get better.” … the pressure of facing hosts Japan “I wouldn’t say it’s pressure - just excitement. All eyes in the country will be on that game, and on Canada, which is great. It will maybe help prepare us for the scrutiny that will come when we, hopefully, play knockout games later in the tournament.” … her team’s group opponents: Chile, Great Britain and Japan "All three teams are strong and will pose different problems. The one team I wouldn’t want to undervalue would be Chile. They recently drew 0-0 with Germany and they’ve been a difficult team to beat historically. We can’t underestimate the importance of that game. Japan are Japan – an extremely good side – and we all know what Team GB could do in this tournament given all the talent they possess in their squad."

… Canada’s main strengths "I think the first thing would be the togetherness off the pitch and the team culture. We’re a very united group and the Covid restrictions here in Japan could actually be something in our favour because this group love being around each other.

"On the field, we have some quick players, athletic players and now some technical players too who’re playing week in, week out and competing for trophies. Blend that with some in our squad who have experience of four Olympics and I think you have a team that can take on anyone. I’ve also seen that when this group have challenges, adversity, and their backs are against the wall, they can produce some great performances. And I would like to think an Olympic Games will bring that out of them." ... the goal for the team at Tokyo 2020 "The goal is to get on the podium again and to change the colour of the medals. We’ve won back-to-back bronze medals, it took a mammoth effort to do that, and I think it will probably be even harder to do it at this Olympics. It will be a big challenge and no-one ever just hands you a medal. But I’ve asked the group to do things they haven’t done before because we do want to change that medal colour from bronze to gold. And if we turn up ready, this group has everything in them to be on that podium again."