Force to be reckoned with

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

In 10 days Canada will walk onto the pitch in Berlin to open the 2011 Women's World Cup.

There will be 70,000 people in the stands and Canada will be playing the tournament favourite, two-time champion and home team Germany.

It's a situation that would intimidate a world powerhouse let alone a team that announced its World Cup roster with nine players on it who have never played in a World Cup.

More to the point, it would usually mean this Canada team would be DOA.

Yet there is something about this team that has a different feel to it than teams in the past.

It may be the closely-knit nature of the team, proven not only on the field but also in how they backed coach Carolina Morace in her battle with the Canadian Soccer Association.

It may be the change in the style of play Morace has worked on over the two years she's been coach.

It may be the significant changes in training including an emphasis on fitness and quickness with extended camps overseas that allows the team to play friendly matches against the best in the world while staying in one place.

Psst, it may be this team is honest to God better.

What's obvious, even from thousands of miles away in Germany, is Morace and Sinclair exude the kind of confidence evident even on a conference call Wednesday.

"We know they have already sold 70,000 tickets," Morace said. "We are training in the right way. We know what we have to do in the field . . . maybe the Germany players will have more pressure than us. We know we are playing the best team in the world. But the personality of our players is a good personality . . . We are doing very well and we played very well in the last year."

We've heard about the transformation of the women's team. The World Cup will show how far that transformation has gone.

From a kick and chase team to a team that plays possession football -- that thinks the game.

From a team that showed little inventiveness, had little speed and agility to a team Morace has, through hard work, forced to be more agile, quick and in better condition. This produces more skillful moves.

"Serie A coaches came to work with the team and they were surprised at how well the team played," Morace said.

As for the training . . . "We have two strengths," Morace said. "One is the organization we have on the field. The other is the predisposition of the players to go to the wall if we ask them . . . They didn't want to give up ever. When they didn't have any other energy, they continue to run without complaint."

Canadian fans have head often enough about the breakthrough national teams are going to make. They will need convincing.

But Morace has convinced her players.

Christine Sinclair, the heart and soul of the Canadian team for many years, has had her training changed significantly and is now quicker and more agile, a significant change to her power and strength game.

Morace has asked Sinclair to do even more. She wants Sinclair to be more creative, to take on players off the dribble.

Morace believes Sinclair is one of the best players in the world. If she takes the next step "she can become the best player in the world."

Sinclair says that while Morace has "completely changed me as a soccer player," the part about taking more players on with her dribble "is still a work in progress."

Warning to the rest of the world: Sinclair says she and her teammates just love playing this style of soccer.

"We feel sharp and ready to go because of her," Sinclair said. "I've never felt better going into a tournament."

And as Morace is fond of saying, "in soccer everything can happen."

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