REACTION – On Thursday, The CanWNT/XNT Head Coach Bev Priestman revealed the squad for the December friendlies against Australia. With the games set up to honour Canadian legend, Christine Sinclair (seen on the left of the main photo), Priestman has brought along quite a few familiar faces for Sinclair, plus one fresh-faced one as well.
Sinclair’s Farewell Squad: CanWNT Roster Reveal & Reaction
Sophie Schmidt Returns for One Last Dance With Sinclair
Many fans will be looking at these fixtures as Christine Sinclair’s farewell tour as she bows out of international duty being the all-time CanWNT appearance holder and scorer. However, these games also mark the end of another legendary CanWNT career for Sophie Schmidt. Schmidt announced earlier this year that she was also ready to bow out of the national team picture, even so far as before the World Cup in Australia. It took Sinclair and other notable figures to convince her to play out the year and see the World Cup out.
Now, the 35-year-old Winnipeg native will play her final two games in BC, the province she spent five years playing in during her time for the women’s Vancouver Whitecaps side in the mid-to-late-2000’s. Schmidt leaves the side as ranked second in all-time appearances with 224, spanning 19 years. She is a two-time National Team assist leader, and a one-time National Team top goalscorer, who has represented her country in nearly 20 senior competitions.
Both Schmidt, Sinclair and ex-CanWNT goalkeeper Erin McLeod will be honoured at the December 5th match at BC Place against Australia, to commemorate their incredible careers in bringing the women’s game in Canada to the next level.
“We always planned on honouring Sophie [Schmidt]. I had a really good conversation with her. She’d love to put her boots on one last time. I have to do the right thing and honour a legend of the game. It’s the least she deserves.” pic.twitter.com/WXeAtqWY0z
— Canadian Soccer Daily (@CANSoccerDaily) November 23, 2023
Remember the Name: Jeneva Hernandez Gray
While many of the names that were on the roster were the usual suspects for Bev Priestman, one particular name stood out amongst the rest. That was young Jeneva Hernandez Gray of Coquitlam. The 17-year-old midfielder currently plies her trade for the Vancouver Whitecaps Girls Elite team in League1 BC. She was an important member of the squad this past season where the WFC team won the League1 BC Championship and the Juan de Fuca plate.
A versatile midfielder, Hernandez Gray has incredible football IQ for a 17-year-old. Her elegant and composed playstyle has already been on display at the national level for both the U17 team in the Women’s u17 World Cup last year, and most recently at the U20 level for the 2024 U20 World Cup qualifying.
“Jeneva [Hernandez Gray] is a bright young talent” said Priestman to media at her roster reveal conference. “Some people have used Julia Grosso as a type of comparison when I’ve spoken to them, but I think generally she is very technical, has a bright future and I think there’s everything for her coming to this camp to add to our midfield”.
The award-winner for the 2023 Whitecaps FC Female Most Promising Player, Hernandez Gray will certainly benefit from this camp, and given Schmidt’s imminent retirement, these games could prove to be a “passing of the torch” moment for the CanWNT.
If there’s one Canadian player to watch at the U17 Women’s World Cup, it’s Jeneva Hernandez Gray.
She starred in League 1 BC this summer and was one of the best players against much more mature opposition.
She also scored THIS in the final. pic.twitter.com/NmQwUCz5HK
— Ben Steiner (@BenSteiner00) October 12, 2022
Not Just A Farewell Game
While much of the marketing and the build-up to this game is surrounding the impending retirement of legend Christine Sinclair, these games will also pose a stern test for the CanWNT against World Cup semi-finalists Australia. Canada will want to bounce back from their 4-0 loss to Australia in the group stages of the World Cup – a defeat that eliminated Canada from progressing to the knockout stage.
READ MORE: CanWNT World Cup Recap And Future Outlook
Now with the 2024 W Gold Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics in mind, these games will prove to be further opportunities to prepare for the defense of their Gold Medal.
“It’s gonna be an emotional night” denoted Priestman to media on Zoom. “But at the same time, no player is gonna wanna let that game just be a nothing game. They’re gonna wanna put everything out there… [and] as a coach, with Paris 2024, you know, that’s where my heart and tactics reside.”
With Sam Kerr and co. looking to qualify for the 2024 Olympics early next year, they too will not take this historic and emotional night lightly, meaning that it will be just as competitive as it will be monumental.
The Last Dance pic.twitter.com/qlnyLYlGwA
— CANWNT (@CANWNT) November 23, 2023
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