Slow boat to China?

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

A big part of winning is that you have to believe you can win.

When you lose 7-0 to Brazil and get beat 2-1 by a bunch of American teenagers at the Pan-Am Games in Rio, is it possible to head to China for the 2007 Women's World Cup believing you're a top team?

"That is a very good question and one I can't answer," said Canadian coach Even Pellerud after naming his 21-member team for the event yesterday.

BUILDING BELIEF

Indeed, building that belief back has been Job. 1 before they open the tournament in Hangzhou Sept. 12 against Norway.

The results of those two matches in Rio were simply shocking. Stunning.

This is a team which made it to the medal round four years ago at the event which was originally scheduled for China but was moved to the U.S.A. due to the outbreak of SARS.

The core members of that team - Christine Sinclair, Kara Lang, Candace Chapman, Katie Thorlakson, Erin McLeod,

Brittany Timko, Melanie Booth and Robyn Gayle - were members of the U-19 team the nation fell in love with at the ballistic inaugural FIFA U-19 Women's World Championships in Edmonton.

They're moving into the prime of their career years together now.

This is supposed to be their time.

Pellerud, who won the Women's World Cup with Norway a dozen years ago and took the Canadians to finish fourth four years ago, says he's not going to be taking his team to China unwilling to settle for anything less than improving the position.

"Our goal is to get to the podium this time. Getting to the podium this time is the only thing I care about."

He says it should be all there for this team now despite what happened in Brazil.

"The core of this team has the perfect amount of experience behind them.

There is a balance in team age and experience that is close to the optimal.

"This is a good team. It's a more mature, more experienced, fitter team than four years ago. It's an athletic team. There's much more international experience and more tournament experience.

"These players know how to travel, know how to carry themselves in international games. It's also a more skilful team than last time, but maybe less of an eager youth.

"In 2003, it was a few veteran players with very strong characters combined with youth around them. And this team is more balanced in terms of age and experience and more united. Team unity is excellent."

That's the team Canada thought our nation had before the train wreck in Brazil.

"My biggest focus now is to peak for the beginning of the tournament," he said of the first game against his fellow Norwegians.

After having the rest of the week off, the team will leave for Japan, where they'll play a pre-tournament game, then fly to Singapore where they will rest and breathe clean air prior to flying into Hangzhou.

Pellerud doesn't know if the Pan-Am Games will have taken the belief away.

But he says half of it is knowing what happened there.

"The first games were very easy. But from the inside, they didn't look good. The touches were unclean and not sharp. We were not sharp in passing and not sharp in finishing. When we came to the Brazil game we were very much punished for what I thought I had seen before. We looked casual defending, almost lazy defending.

'TRAINED TOO LONG'

"I think we trained too long and at too high a volume. We had fatigue symptoms. We had some tired legs and some tired minds.

"And all the way through this we've had a tremendous amount of injuries.

"We've fought injuries for a long time but we have a lot of injured players back on the field and we have trained with a higher quality. For sure the team has looked stronger, fitter and sharper in the last two weeks."

And Pellerud says he thinks these girls know what really happened in Rio.

"We thought we were better than we were," he said.

Now the problem is to get them to start thinking that they're not as bad as they were. Pellerud has three more weeks.


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