Fri, September 20, 2013

Canadians believe massive soccer upset is possible

With 3-43-5 recored against the U.S., Canada is facing enormous odds

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Canada's football player Lauren Sesselmann heads the ball during a training session at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Grammer School Manchester, northern England August 5, 2012. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis


Canada’s women’s soccer team is 3-43-5 against the USA.

The Canadians haven’t had the better of the Americans since 2001.

History isn’t on Canada’s side when they face the Americans in the semifinal of the Olympic soccer tournament Monday (2:45 p.m. EDT), but maybe a setting that drips history could be.

The semifinal will be played at the legendary Old Trafford, “the theatre of dreams,” the home of Manchester United.

Maybe, being in a place that some soccer fans hold in the same regard as hockey fans the old Montreal Forum or Maple Leaf Gardens, will provide inspiration to the Canadian side (The Americans have already had their introduction, having played a preliminary round game against North Korea.)

A wonderful setting like Old Trafford has to be an inspiration for the underdog, right?

“They’re a great team. They’re the best in the world for a reason,” said Canadian midfielder Kaylyn Kyle. “Our track record isn’t great against them, but what better time to change that?”

Or place?

Old Trafford celebrated the centennial of its first game on Feb. 19, 2010.

Not the centennial of the team, like the Montreal Canadiens did a few years back.

The centennial of the first game there.

Manchester United moved to Old Trafford when John Henry Davies, Manchester’s chairman in 1909, decided they needed a new stadium and he enlisted architecht Archibald Leitch to build a 100,000-seat facility. Cost overruns wound up having that scaled back to 80,000.

The stadium was pretty much destroyed after two German bombing raids in the Second World War and it was not used for about 10 years, reopening in 1949.

Old Trafford underwent several renovations in the 1990s - including a conversion to all seats mandated by the government - and six years ago tiers were added to the northwest and northeast stands. The stadium now has a capacity of just under 76,000.

There were 29,522 spectators for USA against North Korea and it will be interesting to see what kind of turnout there will be for Monday night’s semifinal.

They could see Canadian sports history.

Canada has already advanced deeper than they ever have in the Olympic tournament after their quarterfinal win over host Great Britain, advancing to the final four. With an upset win over the Americans Monday night, they will earn themselves at least a silver medal. The winner at Old Trafford will advance to the gold medal game against either France or Japan.

“USA are obviously favourites for the tournament and are on fire right now,” said Canadian star Christine Sinclair, who has three goals. “But we know them very well and we deserve to be there.”

Canada is being led offensively right now by Melissa Tancredi of Hamilton, who is tied with American Abby Wambach for the tournament scoring lead with four apiece.

“USA will be a very tough match. It always is,” said Canada’s Jonelle Filigno. “We’re going to go there and fight, we won’t go out without a battle.”

Monday night, the Americans have history on their side. They have won three of the four Olympic tournaments so far. They have skill up front and have shown a remarkable defence. Since giving up a couple of goals to France, the Americans have shut out opponents for the last 346 minutes.

“This team is bound for glory,” said Wambach. “It might not look pretty in every second of the game, but we get it done.”

But maybe a place with so much tradition, so much history, will inspire the Canadians to make a little of their own.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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