Time to show the worldCanada has to play up to their potential to advance past Japan tomorrow
By TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN
BOSTON -- One thought. One suggestion. One question. I asked it again and again and again here yesterday. What would it be like to get to the Women's World Cup of soccer as allegedly the most improved team in the world and not show what kind of team you've become?
"Extremely, extremely disappointing,'' said star striker Christine Sinclair.
"We've got one game to get it together. That's what we're looking at. Either we can or we go home.
"The bottom line is we haven't played as well as we can and there is no getting around that. We've got to go out and prove to the world that the last two games weren't us.''
Canada goes against Japan at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro tomorrow. It's win, or go home an overhyped team which gagged on the biggest show in their sport.
EXPECTATIONS ARE HIGH
"The team which has played here isn't the team people have watched play around Canada this summer,'' said Sinclair, the winner of the golden boot and golden shoe at the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championships last summer and the co-leader in scoring at the Gold Cup qualifying tournament to get here.
"Coming into the tournament the expectation was that it would come down to this game against Japan and it has. We didn't play very well against Germany and Argentina but if we play well against Japan and go on ... if we beat Japan and go through, what's wrong with that? At this point, that's how we have to look at it.''
But to a woman, the thing is they want to show the world their stuff. And they haven't. Not even close.
A team which looked well-coached, confident, collected and composed for the last year and a half has played here like they'd never met each other before.
"I think we definitely haven't played to our potential,'' said 16-year-old Kara Lang.
"We know Canada isn't happy with the way we've played and we haven't been happy either. We know what we're capable of doing and if we don't do it now, we're going home. We have to iron everything out. We have to come together as a team again and do what we do best.
"It's been extremely frustrating. We know what we can do. I think a lot of it has been nerves. But to not show the world what kind of team we think we've become ... so far that's been the most disappointing thing.
"We came here to prove that Canada has become a soccer country. We don't want to lose this opportunity to show how far Canada has come.''
Charmaine Hooper has been there and done that with two previous editions of Canadian teams at the Women's World Cup. But they just wanted to prove Canada was competitive. This team came to prove that Canada had become one of the best teams in the world, not a three-and-out just-happy-to-be-here bunch.
"Of course it would be disappointing not to prove that, considering the last few months we've had. For us to fall short would be extremely disappointing.
"We came here to earn respect as a top team in the world. We have to start doing the things we did to get here - fighting, tackling, playing hard. There's no reason we can't do that. The bottom line now is just remember what got us here and go out and play that way. This is the World Cup. This is where it all must come together.''
Hooper doesn't believe it's a lack of experience thing.
She says much of this team is made up of the players, which showed everything they wanted to show here last summer at the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championships last year in Edmonton.
"In some ways that was a much bigger deal because it was in Canada and there was so much more pressure to perform. There were high expectations and Canada met them. I don't see any difference between this and that. We have to do the same thing - meet them.''
Andrea Neil, another three-time Canada World Cup player, says it's what they are all thinking about now ... to come here and not show the world what Canada has become would be far worse than what happened the other two trips.
"I can't put words to it. It would be devastating. We're far better than we were four years ago.
CANUCKS EXPECT A TOP TEAM
"We have to perform for 90 minutes. We can't let this slip away. We want this so badly.''
Even Pellerud said it's the same as a coach thinking of Canada going home without showing the world what these girls think they've become.
"That is the hardest thing for a coach. You want to show how the performance has improved, how the game has developed and how many great players we have now.''
Pellerud says he knows his team is being carved back home because people care now and have expectations.
"I consider that a compliment. Canadians expect us to be a top team now. So far we haven't managed.
"What has happened here so far is a surprise to me. In our nine games before we came here, we scored 41 goals.
"Now it comes down to showing how much they want this.
"This next game boils down to desire, ambition and effort.
"As a coach, now I have to tease their heart. Do you want to go home or do you want to stay.''