Canada likes its draw

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Even Pellerud could have handled a dozen periods of Vancouver Canucks overtime. He had to stay up until the middle of the night anyway.

It was 4 a.m. here when Canada's national coach found out he'd drawn the nation he coached to a Women's World Cup title in 1995 and two teams he believes Canada can beat in the event scheduled for September in China.

"I'm quite happy," he said at the Vancouver training camp where his team has spent the entire winter. "It could have been much worse."

Canada drew Norway, Ghana and Australia in Group C during the draw, held in Wuhan, China.

"I was hoping to avoid North Korea. I expect them to be much stronger this time," said Pellerud who coached Christine Sinclair, Kara Lang and the gang that Edmonton fell in love with at the ballistic FIFA U-19 event in 2001 and then went to fourth place at the Women's World Cup in the U.S. four years ago.

That event was originally supposed to be held in China, but was moved to the States because of the SARS scare.

Canada is bidding to host the next Women's World Cup with Edmonton expected to host all Canadian games and the final in Commonwealth Stadium if our nation, which is playing host to the men's U-20 event this summer, succeeds in landing the bid.

"I ranked Norway and China quite evenly. China has been struggling a little bit but they are hosting. So we're quite happy.

"We have never won against Norway. They are still very strong. I'd say they are in the top 3-4-5 behind Germany and the USA. There are a lot of teams at that level now."

Pellerud believes Canada is one of them despite the No. 10 ranking in the world after its fourth-place finish four years ago.

"It's possible to beat them, for sure. We've never taken our top team against them."

Canada has faced Norway eight times in international competition with the best result ending in a 1-1 draw at a 2002 international friendly. The teams have also faced each other in two previous World Cups - Canada getting thumped 7-0 by the team Pellerud coached in 1995 and 7-1 in 1999 before the current roster of players who came through the event became the core of the team.

Canada opens against Norway on Sept. 12.

"I don't mind opening against them. I think we have a fair chance. This team is stronger. We have a lot of same group as four years ago but older, more experience, stronger and more fit.

"We are quite a lot stronger than last time."

Canada plays Norway in Hangzhou, Ghana on Sept. 15, also in Hangzhou, and Australia on Sept. 19 in Chengdu.

Even drawing Hangzhou for two games is a bit of a break because Pellerud happens to be taking his team there May 3 and May 6 for a pair of games against China.

Canada and Ghana have played each other only once in international competition. The international friendly match from 2003 ended in a 1-1 tie.

Canada and Australia have faced each other 13 times over the past two decades. The most recent result at a 2003 international friendly won 2-0 by Canada.

"We know Australia quite well but we will need to scout the African team during our preparations," said Pellerud.

In Group A, reigning world and European champions Germany drew Japan, Englandand Argentina.

Group B will see Sweden and USA,silver and bronze medallistsrespectively, at the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup with Nigeria and Korea DPR in Group D.

Host China have landed with New Zealand, Denmark and Brazil.


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