• Sunday Jul 29, 2012

    Win would end Canada's Olympic guesswork

    By Michael Lewis


    MANCHESTER, England - After a lone victory from its first two games, Canada can reach the quarterfinals of the Olympic women's soccer tournament in a variety of scenarios.

    One that will assure them of berth in the knockout round is a win over Sweden on Tuesday.

    "That word 'might' is the biggest curse in football," Canada coach John Herdman said. "In the first game we played for a result, and I think Sweden tried that with Japan [a scoreless draw on Saturday]. They got away with it but we're both in a very similar position going into that game and both coaches, I'll imagine, will go into it and say there's probably too much at stake.

    "My mindset and the team's mindset will be to go for the result and to win the game. That's what we'll try to do. If we're winning the game then we may change our approach."

    Canada is in third place in Group F, one point behind both Sweden and Japan. The reigning Women's World Cup Japan will play winless South Africa on Tuesday.

    Eight of 12 teams will qualify for the quarterfinals. The top two teams in each of the three groups will advance, plus the two third-place teams with the best records.

    While a draw might be good enough for Canada, it's a risk Herdman really doesn't want to take - especially against a team like Sweden.

    "They're a top four team," he said. "They're very organized, disciplined. I think [Saturday] they adopted a similar strategy to Canada v Japan, and they tried to play direct and, at times, showed their vulnerability."

    Canada has lost four of its last five encounters with Sweden, starting with a 2-1 defeat at the 2008 Olympics in the group finale.

    "We have a lot of respect for them," Canada defender Carmelina Moscato said. "They're a great team. We've played them a couple of times in the past eight months. We're familiar with them. . . . It's going to be about which team executes their game plan the best on the day."

    Herdman has to decide which goalkeeper will start against the Swedes and he has to sort out his center back situation.

    Erin McLeod started the first game in goal, a 2-1 loss to Japan on Wednesday, while Karina Le Blanc played in the 3-0 win over South Africa on Saturday.

    "There's a couple of things we have to consider after this game but it's a good problem to have," Herdman said. "Both goalkeepers are in a good space for us and whoever gets the call will be ready."

    The Canadians have been hurt with injuries at center back. Candace Chapman has been hobbled, and Robin Gayle had to be replaced by Chelsea Stewart on Saturday due to a hamstring injury.

    "You wouldn't have predicted that both center backs are struggling and the one we put in there had to come off the pitch with a hamstring injury," Herdman said. "But these are tournaments, someone has got to step forward, take the mantle and seize the opportunity."

    With the right results - such as the United States winning Group G and Canada taking second in Group F, the North American neighbors could meet in the quarterfinals.

    "You're going to have to play USA at some point," Herdman said. "If we have to play USA that's something we'll have to deal with. We're just going to take it as it comes."

    Canada at least has forward Chistine Sinclair in scoring form. After being shutout in the opener against Japan, Sinclair had two to give her 139 in her career and move her within one of U.S. rival Abby Wambach for second place in women's soccer history behind Mia Hamm (158).

    "You can contain her for a period of time and when she's on, she's on," Herdman said. "I think that's the mark of truly great players. Some days they're just unstoppable."


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