Sinclair's shot to make a scene

Canada's Christine Sinclair holds the Golden Boot award for high scorer in the FIFA U19 Womens...

Canada's Christine Sinclair holds the Golden Boot award for high scorer in the FIFA U19 Womens World championship and the golden ball for MVP of the tournament in Edmonton, Sunday, September 1, 2002.(CP PICTURE ARCHIVE/Edmonton Sun-Perry Mah)

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

SHANGHAI, China -- Christine Sinclair needs to be a big success on the big stage to become a big star.

Canada's most recognizable national team soccer player, male or female, can leave here as a major international recognizable-around-the-world soccer superstar.

She needs one more thing to happen to her. She needs to star with the world watching.

"This is the tournament where she should peak," said coach Even Pellerud of his 23-year-old talent.

"A lot of assessments are made at major events like the World Cup and the Olympics.

"It is here she should answer those questions. This is where she should confirm herself as a top striker in the world and confirm herself as the leader of her team."

When Birgit Prinz of Germany and Marta of Brazil arrived at the Shanghai Pudong Airport here the other day, it was acknowledged that the successors to Mia Hamm's throne were on the scene.

You could make a case that Sinclair deserves to be ranked right up there right now.

"There's no question she's a world class striker but in a very different way than Marta or Prinz," said Pellerud.

"Marta is always visible with her flamboyance and dribbling skills. With Christine there's a lot more mental play. She's just very, very smart. Christine is a very measured striker.

"Birgit works more from the back, from the midfield. That's something we don't want Christine to do.

"When you watch Christine there is less action than Marta or Birgit. But with Christine there is almost never a bad touch of the ball. There is always something good going to happen when you get the ball to Christine."

Sinclair made her initial impact on the world stage at the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship in Edmonton in 2002 winning both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball.

She was crowned top scorer of the tournament with 10 goals and named best player of the tournament in leading Canada to a heartbreaking loss in extra time to the U.S. in the gold-medal game before a sellout crowd at Commonwealth Stadium.

It was all predicted for her then. And this is where it can happen.

The Burnaby, B.C., product was 16 years old when she won her first cap with Canada's senior team. In Canada's last warm-up game last week in Tokyo, she played her 100th international.

Sinclair has scored a Canadian record 82 goals in those games, set a Canadian record by scoring in six consecutive international games in 2003 and helped Canada finish fourth at the FIFA Women's World Cup that year in her first taste of that event with three goals in six games.

In 2006 she was voted U.S. college female athlete of the year after winning her second NCAA title with the University of Portland and breaking an NCAA record of 39 goals in a season.

When she was presented the award, it was said that she could now begin to take her place alongside Mia Hamm, the only other female soccer player to win it.

Twice in the running for FIFA Women's World Player of the Year honours, she's this close. And she knows it.

"This is our time," she says of her team.

And she admits if it is to be the team's time, it has to be her time, too.

"Any time you get to the World Cup or the Olympics, certain people have to perform," is how Sinclair puts it.

"Nobody is putting pressure on me that way. But I expect myself to do well.

"My game is a lot better than it was four years ago. I'm a more well-rounded player now. Four years ago I could score goals. But that was pretty much everything.

"Obviously Birgit and Marta are two amazing soccer players. It would be nice to be put in their company.

"For that to happen, our team has to have the success. Leading my team to success is something I have to do. You get a lot of your recognition through your team.

"This is a team game. You can be a great player but if your team doesn't get out of group play ...

"I try to be a leader by example. I fight for my teammates with all that I have. They do the same for me. I want the team success. The other stuff comes with it."


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