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Canada confident after women’s World Cup draw

Canada confident after women’s World Cup draw

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 08, 2014

Canada almost got what it wanted: home advantage and a relatively comfortable draw to look forward to at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Now the host must take advantage of its good fortune.

Head coach John Herdman could hardly have wished for a much kinder grouping. He knows if his team plays to its potential, Group A is certainly winnable. It won’t be easy — nor should it be at a World Cup — but all three opponents are beatable.

The opening game is crucial for a number of reasons. Canada will want to lay down a marker and announce itself as a formidable, not just amiable, host. There are no friendlies in this tournament; no prizes for spirited losers.

China is not the force it once was in women’s soccer. Gone are the days when the People’s Republic was a genuine title contender. China was runner-up in 1999, but didn’t even qualify for Germany 2011 or the London Olympics a year later.

To have any hope of success, the Canadians must build momentum from the get-go. Christine Sinclair and company will have a big crowd willing them on at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and it is up to the players to embrace and feed off the atmosphere. If they are in anyway intimidated by the occasion or the level of expectation then, frankly, they should not be on the field of play.

Herdman’s wish to play New Zealand was also granted. While Canada was unraveling quickly in Germany four years ago, he was close at hand coaching the Football Ferns in a tough group containing eventual champions Japan. There will be no room for sentiment as Herdman attempts to guide Canada to World Cup respectability at the very least.

Ideally, Canada can travel to Montreal for its final group game with the job done. If not, a potentially awkward hurdle will present itself in the form of the Netherlands. The Dutch are first-time qualifiers at the Women’s World Cup so are clearly not among Europe’s heavyweights. 

But they may just possess the next great female superstar in 18-year-old Anna Miedema, who scored an incredible 16 goals in just 13 qualifiers and was also top scorer at this year’s European U19 Championship, won by Holland. Canadian defenders won’t want to be tested by a quick, young striker with vital points at stake.

Should Canada stumble, there is a bail out plan. If the host does not top the Group A standings, all is not lost. Finishing second in the group for example would not throw the Canadians under the wheels of one of the major seeded juggernauts. It would, instead, pair them with the runner up in Group C — in all probability another unseeded nation.

Canada should make quarter-finals

Ultimately my expectation for the Canadians remains unchanged. A run to the quarter-finals is within their range and grasp. Anything less would be disappointing. Anything more would be pure gravy. But the roadmap to any success will be built on those first two dates in Edmonton.

The remaining five seeds should encounter few initial problems. Defending champion Japan should progress to the last eight before a possible clash of styles with Brazil — still the cream of the crop in South America.

The Americans should prevail in the likely Group of Death that also contains 2011 bronze medalist Sweden plus Nigeria – by some distance the best of the African contingent. Assuming the U.S. comes through that test, it won’t meet another seeded team until the semifinals.

Germany or France will almost certainly stand in the Americans’ way. If the seeding goes to form — the top two European nations will go head to head in a mouth-watering quarter-final. The Germans will arrive as the current European champions while France is arguably the most improved team in women’s football in recent years.

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