Bev Priestman is already thinking about how an upcoming Celebration Tour can benefit her Canadian women’s national soccer club.
The Tour, arranged as a tribute to the squad’s first-ever Olympic gold medal, will kick off with a double-header against New Zealand, whic is coincidentally hosting Canada’s next big tournament: the 2023 FIFA World Cup.
For Priestman, Oct. 23 and 26, in Ottawa, and Montreal, mark the beginning of preparations for the next two years.
“Let’s not make this a one-off moment,” said Priestman, of winning the Olympics. “Let’s make sure we conquer the World Cup and then in 2024 get on the podium again.”
Fans certainly wouldn’t complain about another title.
“What I learned very quickly is that this country loves this team,” said Priestman. “That’s the first thing I would say.
“No matter where you go, everybody tells the story about how they got their kids up in the early hours to watch this team consistently throughout the tournament, not just in the big moments. It makes you feel loved.”
All 22 players from Tokyo will compete in the Celebration Tour, potentially joined by some additions. Details about the rest of the event are yet to be finalized, but Priestman says Canada Soccer is planning on playing on both the East and West coasts.
Going forward, the 35-year-old is focused on continuing to develop the team’s technical ability, a quality that was already quite strong at the 2020 Olympics and allowed the team to be more creative than they’ve been in the past.
Priestman is also determined to work on scoring, as the Canadians got through the entire knockout stage in Tokyo without burying a single regulation-time goal.
Defence was their strongest asset through the summer, but they’ll have to work on other strengths if they want to stay on top. Priestman alluded to it being important to make changes to their game since every team will closely study Canada’s tendencies and style of play now that they’ve won a championship.
According to defender Ashley Lawrence, the root of the team’s success is their bond off the field.
“Being Canadians, you can really see how much we do care for each other and how much we want to fight for one another,” said Lawrence. “And that definitely was a difference maker that helped us win the gold medal.”
With 32 teams, the 2023 World Cup will take more preparation than the Olympics, where there were just 12 teams. The Celebration Tour would seem to be the perfect place to start.
“You look at New Zealand and that’s a perfect fit for what we could get, and we know we often get New Zealand in a major tournament,” said Priestman. “They always give us a great game.”