Soccer-Olympic hopes on line as reigning champions Canada face Jamaica

FIL PHOTO:Soccer Football - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Group B - Canada Press Conference - Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Melbourne, Australia - July 30, 2023 Canada coach Bev Priestman during the press conference REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/File Photo

(Reuters) - After seeing their World Cup dreams crushed Canada's women's national soccer team will try to avoid the same for their Olympic hopes when they take on Jamaica in a home and away tie that will decide which team will get a ticket to Paris.

The CONCACAF region will have two spots in the 12 team Olympic tournament next year and with the United States having already secured one of those places Canada or Jamaica will grab the other.

Canada has been an Olympic powerhouse with a gold and two bronze from the last three Summer Games but without a result against Jamaica will be watching the Paris tournament from home.

Jamaica will host the first game on Friday in Kingston with the second leg set for Tuesday at soldout BMO Field in Toronto with the coveted spot going to the team that finishes with most combined goals.

"Obviously the away (goals) we can't hide from that, we have to go looking for goals," said Canada head coach Bev Priestman during a conference call on Thursday. "We've taken a step forward for sure from where we were at the World Cup."

The Reggae Girlz have lost nine straight meetings with Canada but will be buoyed by the support of a raucous home crowd and riding a wave of confidence from a hugely successful World Cup where they reached the round of 16 for the first time.

Jamaica were one of the World Cup's surprise packages earning draws with powerhouses France and Brazil and beating Panama for their first ever win in the competition.

In contrast there is concern around the Canadian camp after a less than inspiring showing at the World Cup where they dropped out in the group stage.

Priestman acknowledged it has been difficult to put that failure behind them but it has also motivated her squad which she said is hungrier than it has been for some time.

While an early World Cup exit was a shock, failing to get to Paris would be a humiliating setback for a women's program that has been distracted by a labour and pay disputes at home and unfocused on the pitch.

"It's going to linger for some time I don't think it ever leaves you to feel the way you feel," said Priestman. "But I feel like the group is in a really good place and obviously there is a lot on the line.

"In many ways that's probably what we need is to get right back on the horse.

"It's still in the pit of your stomach you feel it but I think you're at your most dangerous when you come off the back of a disappointment because I would like to think this group hungrier than it has been for awhile because of such a big setback."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Michael Perry)

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