It's a sport within a sport.
Once a soccer team is placed in a group for a major tournament, the dissecting and bisecting begins.
This team should lose to that team but should beat this team, meaning the third game is vital to any team advancing.
It happened immediately upon Canada being drawn in a group with host and tournament favourite Germany in Germany 2011 Women's World Cup.
Group A consisted to Germany, Canada, France and Nigeria. The dissecting had Canada losing to Germany but beating Nigeria. Therefore the game Thursday against France became vital to Canada's chances of advancing to the next round.
That's all well and good except for the big news out of this women's World Cup. After the first set of group games, it has become evident that nothing is a sure thing. Canada could very well beat France on Thursday and then take on Nigeria and wind up losing.
There are no guarantees.
Check the results.
Japan needed everything it had to defeat New Zealand 2-1. The United States had their hands full with North Korea before subduing them 2-0 while in the same group Sweden edged Colombia 1-0. None of those games was supposed to be that hard.
In the most enthralling game of David vs. Goliath, Norway was supposed to approach double digits in a win against Equatorial Guinea but had to score in the final five minutes for a 1-0 win.
It wasn't as if Guinea sat back. They attacked which made for an enthralling contest.
Brazil, meanwhile, needed a stunning strike by Rosana to defeat Australia 1-0.
There is no blueprint for this World Cup. With the calibre of women's soccer improving at a ridiculous rate, the gap between good and bad teams is closing especially in a World Cup setting where most of the world's best teams have made it through.
The Canada-France game Thursday is the key game for Canada. While some are suggesting a tie would suffice, what Canada really needs is a win. Canada needs to take control of its own destiny and not rely on anyone else. Wins against France and Nigeria will do that.
France has already done what they needed to do and that's beat Nigeria.
With the close nature of results in this tournament, there is no guarantee Canada can do the same.
Canada is ranked No.6 in the world and France No. 7 with only 31 points separating the two teams in the world rankings.
This was supposed to be a tournament where Canada showed the calibre of its woman's program had improved. Most everyone associated with it, who had watched the team, who looked at its results, was certain the Canadian women had improved technically, physically and mentally.
Even though Canada was clearly outplayed in its 2-1 loss to Germany, the players didn't fall apart and didn't panic. At other times, down 2-0 against a top team would have turned quickly into a 4-0 game.
The game against France is vital in the standings and for Canada's psyche. While the players believe they have a shot at going a long way in this tournament, a good performance and a victory against France would make that more than just a belief.
Then there's the need for this team to show they can respond to adversity.
Canada won't know if its best player and one of the world's best players, Christine Sinclair, will be able participate against France. She was fitted with a mask to protect her broken beak, but it's a painful injury.
The betting here is someone as tough and driven as Sinclair will play even if she has to run over the doctors to get on the field. Her appearance will help Canada respond with a good performance against France.
If it can't, then it will be going home adding just another chapter to the Misery in Canadian Soccer bestseller this nation has been busy compiling over the years.