Bulls in a China shop?FIFA declares Canadian quarter-final win as Beauty losing out to the Beast
By TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN
PORTLAND, Oregon -- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And apparently our girls are not the princesses of the pitch, but repulsively grotesque. They are if you read the FIFA Web site, which stated it was a "cruel night'' and "in the end it was Beauty losing out to the Beast as China's sun set in the American Northwest.''
It didn't take long for somebody to throw a negative spin on what happened here late Thursday night as Canada, on an early goal by Charmaine Hooper, battled to beat China 1-0 to knock the famed Steel Roses out of the World Cup and move on to the semifinal and the medal round.
But FIFA? The governing body of the sport?
When we left the Canadians at PGE Park here Thursday night it seemed like a beautiful thing.
It did to Hooper.
"Four years ago I did not imagine being in the semifinals of the World Cup. I couldn't imagine us winning a game at the World Cup. This is bigger than anything we've ever done before.''
Eleven hours later she was being asked about being the Beast.
HOW DO YOU REALLY FEEL?
"I'd rather be the Beast and win. I'd rather win looking ugly than lose looking pretty,'' she said of the all-out defensive second-half strategy to put away the Chinese team, which lost the last World Cup in the final in a shootout to the U.S.
"All anybody remembers is the result. The pretty team is going back to China. We're going to the semifinal.''
When we left coach Even Pellerud at the park he was calling it "a bigger accomplishment for me than winning the World Cup in 1995 with Norway.''
Pellerud was proudly proclaiming it to be "a historic day for soccer in Canada. What we accomplished is amazing. This is a major accomplishment. This young team is just starting. Our average age is less than 23 years old.''
Yesterday he wouldn't even offer a response to the beastly FIFA commentary.
"It's totally irrelevant to me. I don't even want to think about that. I'm exhausted. I had a very short night. I woke up at 4 a.m. and I haven't slept since," he said.
"I know what this means for soccer in Canada. I don't think a lot of people knew the level of this team back in Canada. But I have a sense of what's happening back in Canada now because the same thing happened in Norway in 1995. It was the same type of reaction as it is here now.''
Canadian Soccer Association president Andy Sharpe called it "redemption.''
"We were slogged pretty bad after our first two games,'' he said. "What we watched was heart, desire and toughness. Possessing the ball is one thing, but heart, desire and toughness are part of the game, too. Ah, there's always going to be soccer snobbery against Canada anyway.''
It was 9:30 a.m. in the hotel lobby and instead of dealing with a handful of Canadian journalists, suddenly there were dozens of media men from around the world on the story that the Oregonian headlined: "Whoa Canada Pulls Upset.''
It was upsetting to some that it was viewed as such an upset. But for the most part the northern girls went with the feel-good flow of the storyline.
"We're in the World Cup semifinal and China is going home,'' said Christine Sinclair. "You can pass the ball around all you want. It doesn't bother us. We proved we could get a 1-0 lead and that we could hold it.
"I don't have words to tell you how it feels. It'll take time for this to really hit us and we don't have time. We play Sweden Sunday. We have a game in two days.
"Nothing compares to this. This is the World Cup. And we just beat China.''
Kara Lang, the 16-year-old, said it all hit her when she woke up.
"It took the whole night to sink in. We held China off for 90 minutes. That in itself is a great accomplishment.''
Veteran Andrea Neil says she knows what this means for the future of the sport in Canada.
HUGE WIN FOR CANADA
"It's huge. This the crest of a wave Canada has been riding since the U-19 championship in Edmonton last summer. Young girls in Canada suddenly have role models. Canadian role models. Fourteen months ago their role model was Mia Hamm of the U.S. Now it can be Brittany Timko, Taryn Swiatek. Any one of these young girls.
"It's hard to imagine how much impact this will have in Canada. People who have followed us know we have 20 solid people, not just 20 good soccer players,'' she stressed.
"I think we've earned a lot of support in Canada. I know we have. We can feel their support down here.''
Hooper says she hopes Canada makes Mia Hamms out of all of them.
"It's important that Canada uses this and markets this. To not jump on this opportunity would be a big waste.''
It's also important, she says, that these Canadian players don't waste this opportunity themselves.
"I don't think you've seen the best of Canada. We want more.''