At their Beck and call

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

HANGZHOU, China -- Mellisa Tancredi didn't get it. She's new around here.

To most of the Canadian players, losing 2-1 to Norway here to open the FIFA Women's World Cup, was devastating.

They believed, really believed, they could win this one. And if referee Christine Beck of Germany hadn't blown the call and disallowed a goal she scored, they could have been leading 2-0 at the half instead of 1-0 and things might have turned out different.

"We weren't expected to win this game," said Tancredi.

Certainly not to the soccer world at large. Canada had never won a game against Norway. Their two games against the Norwegians in previous World Cups were 7-0 and 7-1 losses in 1995 and 1999.

But then there was four years ago and Even Pellerud was coaching Canada instead of coaching Norway and our girls of summer finished in the final four.

FOUR YEARS AGO

Despite what happened four years ago it was Norway, the No. 4 ranked team in the world, versus Canada, the No. 9 ranked team, and this was the universe unfolding as it should.

Canada was supposed to lose to Norway, beat Ghana here Saturday and then go to Chengdu next week and play Australia to decide who would advance to the quarter-finals and who would go home.

Our girls had figured they had Norway setup. Pellerud had never put these 11 players on the field together before. Canada knew everything about Norway and the same wasn't true the other way around.

Pellerud surprised most observers by starting Erin McLeod of Calgary in goal for her first World Cup game and she made several brilliant saves.

And he started Tancredi up front with Christine Sinclair and Kara Lang.

It would have been story book stuff.

Thirty-two minutes into her Women's World Cup first game, she scored.

"It was amazing," Tancredi said of starting a World Cup with the two most recognizable names in Canadian soccer, men's or women's, unless you count England World Cup player Owen Hargreaves of Manchester United.

"Never did I imagine I'd be starting in this World Cup," she said.

"I think it was only about two months ago that Even started thinking that I could be out there," said the player who had only 25 international appearances going into the game, only eight against teams in this tournament and only a couple as a starter.

She'd only scored one goal. But there she was.

And she scored!

"We scored two goals. Unfortunately the referee disallowed one wrongly," said Pellerud of Tancredi's goal disallowed for contact.

"There was no contact."

If Pellerud, who was forced to watch from the stands due to a suspension, was surprised, he had company from this 25-year-old late bloomer.

"So am I," she said.

"I think the goal should have counted. I wasn't even near her.

"I think it was her own teammate," she said of any contact with the keeper.

"The same thing happened to me in Japan in the last game we played before we came here," she said of a disallowed goal which would have given Canada a 1-0 win to take into the tournament instead of a nil-nil draw.

"It's hard being a big girl," she said of her height and size in the battle which Candace Chapman, the girl who missed the last World Cup due to injury, scored a goal a minute later.

FIFTH CUP

She'd just put the ball in the back of the net behind legendary Norway keeper Bente Nordby playing in her fifth World Cup. (Pellerud having coached her to the World Cup title in 1995.)

This should have been a wonderful story for Tancredi, Chapman and McLeod and the entire Canadian team. But it didn't work out that way.

The rest of the team trudged out of Dragon Stadium, where 30,752 had witnessed the game, gutted after running out of gas in the second half to gas a game they might have won if her goal had only counted.

"We still have two games," she said.


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