Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller learns his team's road map at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup on Saturday at the tournament draw in Paris.
Heiner-Moller will carry the Canadian colours at the draw along with Ashley Lawrence, who plays her club soccer for Paris Saint-Germain. The World Cup, which unlike the 2015 tournament in Canada will be played on grass, runs June 7 to July 7 in nine French cities.
Mia Hamm, Didier Deschamps, Kaka, Steffi Jones, Michael Essien, Alex Scott, Aya Miyama, Louis Saha and Carli Lloyd are among the stars who will take part in the draw at La Seine Musicale arts centre. Four years ago, the draw was held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.
The four pots for the draw were allocated based on world rankings released Friday.
"It's good we're finally in Pot 1," Heiner-Moller said with a chuckle prior to jumping on a plane to Paris.
The Canadians earned that elite status this time. Canada was ranked eighth in the world going into the 2015 tournament but was slotted into Pot 1 for the draw as host country.
The Canadian women, currently ranked fifth, join the top-ranked and defending champion Americans in Pot 1 along with No. 2 Germany, No. 3 France No. 4 England and No. 6 Australia. Those teams will avoid each other in the opening group phase.
For Heiner-Moller, the only certainty is that his team won't be drawn with Jamaica, which is also in CONCACAF. Teams from the same confederation can't be placed in the same group, with the exception of Europe, which has nine entries in the 24-country field.
And that's not a plus given the Reggae Girlz, at No 53, are in Pot 4 as the lowest-ranked team in the field. Canada is 7-0-0 all-time against the Jamaicans, outscoring them 48-1, although the most recent meeting — in October at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament — was only a 2-0 victory.
The Women's World Cup has a generous structure with the winners and runners-up from each of the six groups, as well as the best four third-placed teams, advancing to the knockout round,
Pot 2 is strong with the seventh-ranked Netherlands, No. 8 Japan, No. 9 Sweden, No. 10 Brazil, No. 12 Spain and No. 13 Norway. Japan made the final in 2015, losing 5-3 to the U.S. before a crowd in excess of 53,000 at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.
"We know all these teams," said Heiner-Moller. "We have a good record against all these teams."
Canada beat Brazil, Japan, the Netherlands and Norway last time out, split its last two matches with Sweden and lost to Spain.
Saturday's draw allows the Canada coach to plan his pre-tournament schedule, which likely will involve teams similar in style to his first-round opponents. There are four FIFA international breaks before the tournament and Heiner-Moller plans to use all of them, including a return to the Algarve Cup in Portugal.
In 2015, Canada was drawn alongside China, the Netherlands and New Zealand. The host country finished atop its pool after beating China 1-0 — on a 92nd-minute Christine Sinclair penalty — and tying New Zealand 0-0 and the Netherlands 1-1.
The Canadians went on to edge Switzerland 1-0 in the round of 16 before losing 2-1 to England in the quarterfinals.
Chile, Jamaica, Scotland and South Africa are making their first World Cup appearance.
Brazil, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden and the U.S. have taken part in every World Cup since the tournament's inception in 1991. Canada failed to qualify for the first tournament, which featured just 12 teams with the U.S. as the lone CONCACAF representative.
The Canadian women are 8-4-0 this year, with losses to the U.S., Germany, France and Sweden.
Heiner-Moller will take 23 players to the World Cup.
Draw Pots (with world ranking)
1. U.S.; 2. Germany; 3. France; 4. England; 5. Canada; 6. Australia
7. Netherlands; 8. Japan; 9 Sweden; 10. Brazil; No. 12 Spain; No. 13 Norway
14. South Korea; 15. China; 16. Italy; 19. New Zealand; 20. Scotland; 29. Thailand
36. Argentina; 38. Chile; 39. Nigeria; 46. Cameroon; 48. South Africa; 53. Jamaica.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
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