June 23, 2011
Canada looking to make some noise
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
Canada never before has been a major player on such a big stage.
Oh, Canada's women's soccer team has played in the women's World Cup before, four times in fact. The Canadians even made it as far as the semifinals in 2003.
But on June 26 in Germany, they will open the big show against not only the host team but also the favourite.
The expected scenario for a Canadian soccer team would be to wilt under the glare of the spotlight and slink away with tail between legs missing yet another opportunity to make the jump to contender from pretender.
But like all good things, all bad things must come to an end.
If any team is going to make a breakthrough in the world of international soccer, it's the women.
They will be a real player this year on this major stage.
A lot of the right strings are being pulled, making this World Cup in Germany the perfect spot for Canada to make some noise.
National team coach Carolina Morace is the one doing the pulling.
The former Italian team star has done more than just move the Canadians to No. 6 in the world. She also has managed to stare down the Canadian Soccer Association, forcing it to do what was right by her team and the program. Early this year, Morace indicated she was leaving the national program after the World Cup. There were issues the CSA didn't want to deal with. Morace's players threatened a boycott to support her.
In the end, Morace got her deal and, more importantly, got what she needed to move the national team forward. Her players got more money and their coach was provided assurance there would be no distractions at this World Cup.
The past while, the Canadians have been training as a group in Europe. If there is one thing that is obvious in the sport of soccer, it's that success doesn't come unless the team trains and competes together for an extended period.
Morace has established a training camp where players can come together far more frequently that in previous years.
Since 2007 Canada has played 60 A-matches. That's second only to the United States and tied with Sweden. Canada has played 16 since November alone.
The Canadians sport a 10-2-1 record in 2011. As CONCACAF champs in Mexico, they scored 17 goals and conceded none.
Canada has several world-class players coming into their prime, especially striker Christine Sinclair.
Since becoming Canada's coach early in 2009, Morace has changed the style of play, putting a premium on control and short passing. Universally, like the men's game, kick and chase is no longer an option.
That's tremendous news for now and 2015 when Canada is host of the World Cup.
There are good feelings surrounding this women's team right now as success has been slowly building.
The Canadians come into the World Cup as CONCACAF and Cyprus Cup champions. They are confident, having established the type of preparation and mentality to play on the world stage that has escaped the men's team for so long.
What is Canada's long-term prognosis for the World Cup? Grouped with Germany, France and Nigeria, it could have been worse.
Getting a result from Germany in that nation's opener on home soil would be a major accomplishment. But France and Nigeria are beatable.
The United States, Norway, Sweden and Brazil are other favourites.
Make it to the quarter-finals and anything is possible.
Should Canada finish second in its group, it would get one of Mexico, England, Japan or New Zealand, whichever wins Group B, in those quarterfinals. It's difficult but hardly knee-trembling if Canada plays well. With the off-field issues behind them, playing well is all they have to worry about.
And with how well they're prepared, they'll probably play very well indeed.