After suffering an injury against the Netherlands, Sophie Schmidt (pictured) should be ready to go against Switzerland in a FIFA Women's World Cup, round of 16 game on June 21, 2015. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER -- With a capacity crowd of more than 54,000 expected to be on hand for Canada’s round of 16 encounter with Switzerland, head coach John Herdman and company are expecting an extraordinary atmosphere at BC Place on Sunday.
“Coming back to Vancouver has been a breath of fresh air,” said Herdman, who has lived-in the area since taking the job in 2011. “As a group, we hoped and planned for this to happen. We wanted to end up here. It just feels like home.”
After enjoying tremendous support throughout the team’s group stage fixtures in both Edmonton and Montreal (the Canadians averaged 44,675 fans per match), Les Rouges are now relishing their return to Vancouver, the team’s spiritual center and a city many of the players consider home.
“It’s amazing to back in Vancouver,” said Canada playmaker Sophie Schmidt. “We’re so excited to play in front of these fans at BC Place. It’ll be an amazing atmosphere. Obviously, it’s a tough challenge, but these are the moments your live for as a professional athlete. We’re ready and we’re excited.”
Schmidt, in particular, will have the spotlight pointed in her direction when she takes the pitch against a gritty Swiss team that finished third in Group C. The 26-year-old took an awkward tumble late in the team’s final group stage match against the Netherlands and was subbed out. She was subsequently seen on crutches during the squad’s arrival at the Vancouver airport. However, both Herdman and Schmidt stated their confidence that she’ll have a role to play on Sunday.
“I am crutch free, I trained today and the way I see it, I’m playing tomorrow,” said a smiling Schmidt at the team’s pre-match press conference. “Thank goodness for the last five days and that little bit of a break. The med staff has done an amazing job of taking care of me and getting me back to health. I feel good, excited and ready for tomorrow.”
Schmidt’s return to fitness only enhances the advance hype and intrigue. Having made it out of the World Cup group stages just one other time (2003), Sunday’s showdown is widely considered the biggest game in Canadian women’s national team history. While the bright lights certainly bring added pressure, Herdman says the team is ready.
“Our preparations have been great and we have remained diligent,” Herdman concluded. “We can’t wait to get out there and play in front of that packed crowd. It’s going to be class.