January 28, 2012
Canadian celebrations on hold, for now'They don't frighten us, but they're a team that we love to tip over on home soil'
By Hosea Cheung, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - Put the celebrations on hold for now. Save the tears of joy for later.
The Canadian women's soccer team still have business to take care of.
Clinching a spot in the 2012 Olympics with their 3-1 win over Mexico Friday was an emotional high for Canada. But they'll need to quickly recover and refocus as one more game awaits in the Women's Olympic Qualifying tournament in Vancouver.
The Canadians will host arch-rival USA in the final Sunday at BC Place, a venue that just saw a record-high crowd for a CONCACAF qualifying game.
However, they may need an even better showing than the 22,954 against the Mexicans to help them get by the world's top ranked team.
"It's USA vs Canada. It's one of the old-time derbies," said coach John Herdman. "They don't frighten us. But they're a team that we love to tip over on home soil. I hope the whole of Vancouver rock up and give us a hand beating the Americans."
If so, it'll be an historic victory.
Canada has never defeated the Americans at home. In fact, they have only three wins ever against the States while drawing five times and losing a whopping 41 matches. Their last victory over USA came all the way back in November of 2001.
Under Herdman, the two squads met twice in September friendlies, a 1-1 draw in the first game followed by a 3-0 American win.
"That was my first test and I remember asking the players, 'What does it mean to you (to play USA)?'" Herdman said. "They just looked at me blank as if to say, 'Are you really asking that question?' I'm really hoping the Canadian public will come along and really get behind us."
While both teams have already earned their plane tickets to London — USA won 3-0 over Costa Rica in the other semifinal to qualify — there is still something to play for. First and foremost, bragging rights; secondly, a higher seed at the Olympics.
Not that Canada really needs any more motivation to take on their southern neighbours.
"We're always ready for the Americans," said captain Christine Sinclair, who has nine goals in the tournament. "Not too often do you get a chance to play the best team in the world. We will absolutely use it as a building block towards London. For once the pressure is off and both teams will go out and enjoy it."
Enjoyment, sure. But there is still plenty on the line. For the Canadians, they will also look to extend their unbeaten streak of 10 games.
"We've had a lot of strung-together games here that we've done really well and I think we're going to end off really well," said forward Melissa Tancredi, who scored the winner Friday. "We need to finish it off against the US. That's our last goal.
"It's a huge game for us no matter what. Everyone is going to leave their heart on the field."