Luck of the draw

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:29 AM ET

It will be Canada's fifth trip to China in the last two years. In that same span they've played one home game in Canada. One. In St. John's, N.L. Two years ago.

Now they need them. Will they get them?

Yesterday in Beijing, the northern girls ended up with about as good a draw as they could have hoped to have for the Olympic soccer tournament when Canada drew Argentina, Sweden and China.

Canada plays Argentina in the Aug. 6 opener, two days before the Games begin. On Aug. 9, the day after the opening ceremonies, Canada plays Sweden. Both games will be in Tianjin, located about two hours from Beijing.

The Aug. 12 game against China will be in Beijing.

Canada has had recent success against China, beating the Chinese 1-0 at the Women's World Cup to make it to the semifinal and a 0-0 draw in January. Canada has faced Sweden's senior women's side 11 times, the most recent being their first ever win against the Svenska Flickas.

Now the question is if their own national body - which has so failed them to this point - will find a way to help them get there with a chance to do something about it.

The Canadian Soccer Association turned down an offer to host the recent CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Canada, forcing the team to play Mexico in Juarez where, with 22,000 wild and crazy fans in the stands urging the home nation on, Christine Sinclair, Kara Lang and the gang managed to score a 1-0 win to put Canada in the women's Olympic tournament for the first time in 24 years.

This is a team I consider to be a national treasure and the ultimate testimonial to the Canadian Olympic Committee's Road To Excellence program to give Canada's best their best chance to succeed.

"I can't say enough about the COC's investment and commitment to our team to help us to get to this point," said Les Meszaros, the manager of Canada's national team.

But they need love.

They need home games.

They need people sitting in the stands watching them play a going-away game like the one five years ago in Edmonton where 30,000-plus came to Commonwealth Stadium to say bon voyage before they went to the World Cup and shocked the world by making the medal round. Or the stops they made across Canada preparing for the U-19 women's world championships where they drew over 160,000 and sold out Commonwealth Stadium for the gold medal, golden goal loss to the United States.

Thanks to the cash-strapped Canadian Soccer Association who haven't had the will to find them a way, Even Pellerud's Canadian team has had to live a Harlem Globetrotters lifestyle, playing wherever in the world they can get a booking with no home games.

They have the Four Nations Tournament in Korea, including a game against Argentina, a team they've played only once in defeating en route to the medal round at the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup.

But they need home games.

"In a perfect world we would have to have a going-away game in Edmonton.

"Better yet, one in both Edmonton and Vancouver," said Meszaros.

"Having the Olympic draw completed gives us a better idea of who we might get for any potential home games, should they get approved."

May I suggest the U.S.A., July 1 in Edmonton and July 4 on the other side of the border just south of Vancouver.

The Americans have ended up in a pool with Norway, Japan and New Zealand.

The third pool consists of North Korea, Nigeria, Brazil and Germany.

The Canadian girls, thanks to their globetrotting, have been real regulars in China, something that just became a bonus with drawing China in the Olympic tournament.

"It will be a challenge to play the host, but I am happy we don't play them in the first match," said Pellerud from Beijing after yesterday's draw.

"I am quite pleased with a reasonable draw," said the coach of the 12-team tournament.

Get them some home games and who knows what can happen.


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