January 16, 2012
Canada aiming at Olympic soccer berth
By HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - It's not about redemption for Christine Sinclair.
More than six months after their dismal performance at the Women's World Cup in Germany, the Canadian women's soccer team will be on the field in Vancouver this week in its quest to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
And according to the nation's top female soccer star, the 11-day CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament at BC Place is simply a stepping stone for the 20-women squad to get back on the bigger international stage.
"It wasn't in the qualification tournament that we failed," Sinclair said Monday. "For me, it's all about looking forward and qualifying for the Olympics, and then once we get there, then maybe we can talk about redemption."
Even so, the disappointment from the World Cup is still fresh.
Touted as a favourite heading in, Canada lost all three group games, to Germany, Nigeria, and France. They scored once, on a memorable free kick by Sinclair against the hosts, before finishing dead-last in the tournament.
Soon after, coach Carolina Morace resigned.
The lesson Sinclair and the rest of the Canadian women took from the experience was one they now carry with them into the CONCACAF qualifier.
"In tournaments like this you can't not show up for one game," the 28-year-old Burnaby, B.C. native said. "That's sort of what happened to us when we played France. We played very poorly and it cost us the tournament."
John Herdman took over as the new head coach after the summer debacle and led Canada to a gold medal -- beating a Marta-less Brazil in the final -- at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The Brit, who is the former head coach of New Zealand's women's team, has renewed the players' passion for the game, said Sinclair.
"There's been an adjustment period, but it's been easy and smooth," she said. "He gives the players a lot of freedom and he treats us like professionals, and expects us to act like professionals."
This week, Canada will need to do just that in front of a home crowd. The top two teams in the eight-nation tournament, which starts Thursday, will earn a berth to the 2012 Olympics.
Canada, ranked seventh in the world, is expected to qualify, along with the United States, who at No. 1 is the only team in the CONCACAF tourney ranked higher.
"We're confident," Sinclair said. "The way our team has taken it, there hasn't been more pressure, it's more excitement. We're heading into this tournament knowing we should be able to qualify."
Canada opens play Thursday against Haiti before facing Cuba Jan. 21 and Costa Rica Jan. 23.
Group B consists of the U.S.A., Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals on Jan. 27. The final is set for Jan. 29.
"You always dream as a player to play in a big tournament in front of your friends and family," said veteran Canadian defender Brittany Timko. "We didn't have the best World Cup, but we've moved on and we're just really excited to play."