Shoot and shovelCanada needs lots of goals to dig out of this Cup mess
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- "O.K. girls, listen up.
"In the next one, we gotta go out there and win the first World Cup soccer game Canada has ever won, men's or women's, and win it by, oh, six or seven goals. Got it?
"We'd scored six goals in our combined history of women's World Cup games going into this year. Now we need that many in one. And we're playing Maradona's country, Argentina? Any questions?"
If you're a casual sports fan, a once-every-four-years soccer fan, and were completely oblivious to women's soccer until Christine Sinclair and Kara Lang came along last summer and grabbed your attention, you probably figure the Canadians might as well come home.
"We have to beat them and score a lot of goals just to be on the safe side," said captain Charmaine Hooper. "Six or more would be nice. It'll be great to finally get that first win after all these years, but we have to win decisively and then get ready for Japan.''
After a disappointing performance in losing their USA 2003 Women's World Cup opener 4-1 to No. 3-ranked Germany, Canada isn't suddenly a team in trouble in this tournament. But they just lost their wriggle room.
To get to the quarter-finals, Even Pellerud's 12th-ranked team now has to beat both Argentina and Japan or beat Argentina big and tie Japan.
GOALS FOR AND AGAINST
In the event of a tie in Group C standings, it comes down to goals for-against. With Japan beating Argentina 6-0, Canada is a minus nine they must make up Wednesday night before heading to Boston to play the Japanese on Saturday. Canada and Japan tied 1-1 four years ago.
The good news is Japan plays the Germans in the first game Wednesday so Canada will know how many, exactly, they'd need against Argentina, the world's 35th-ranked country, in the second game.
Despite his captain's comment, Pellerud doesn't want his team thinking like that.
Pellerud took his team to an Obetz, Ohio, practice facility yesterday and, despite the temptation to do a soccer version of a bag skate, took it easy on them.
"They are so disappointed by themselves. This was a recovery session. We have to get our brains back about us and start over again. We'll take them back and show them some things on the tapes. Then, when we're finished with the tape today, we'll probably burn it.
"What the tapes told us was that it was more about our performance than their performance,'' he said of the Germans. "Our pressure on the ball, which has been so great on this team for a year, was not there in that first game.
"I think there was a lot of mental pressure our players put on themselves because it was the World Cup. Kara Lang was very tired early. There's a lot of mental pressure when you're a kid,'' he said of the 16-year-old he subbed at the half with the score 1-1.
CHANGE IN FORMATION
Pellerud admitted taking Lang out and going from a 4-3-3 format to a 4-5-1 backfired on him when the Germans took a 2-1 lead in the first minute of the second half. But in a twisted sort of way, he said Canada scoring first might have backfired, too.
"We'd won so many games, had so much success on our way here, to go up 1-0 on Germany three minutes into the game maybe gave us a confidence we shouldn't have had. The first goal we scored, considering our recent success, probably created a problem.''
Pellerud's team came here with a 10-game unbeaten streak and with most of his players unfamiliar with losing to anybody on the world stage other than golden-goal gold-medal game losses to the U.S. in both the FIFAU-19 Women's World Championships and Gold Cup CONCACAF qualifying to get here.
Sinclair, who got her first World Cup goal in her first Cup game, said it's the old lose-a-game-learn-a-lesson thing. Pick yourself up. Get back in the game.
"We took it pretty hard.
''But the most important thing is to put that game behind us, use it as a wake-up call, and hope what happened will prove to have been good for us.
''Argentina is obviously a team we should beat. Japan is a very skilled team. But we feel confident we can beat both of them.''
Sinclair says the bottom line is simple.
"We have to get our act back together in four days, not wait four years.''