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  • CanWNT heading into the home stretch at Four Nations Cup in China

    GK- Erin McLeod | USA / Houston Dash

    GK- Stephanie Labbe | SWE / KIF Örebro

    GK- Karina LeBlanc | USA / Chicago Red Stars

    D- Kadeisha Buchanan | USA / West Virginia University

    D- Allysha Chapman | SWE / Eskilstuna United DFF

    D- Carmelina Moscato | USA / Seattle Reign FC

    D- Marie-Eve Nault | SWE / KIF Örebro

    D- Rebecca Quinn | USA / Duke University

    D- Rhian Wilkinson | CAN / Comètes de Laval

    D- Sura Yekka | CAN / Brams United

    D- Emily Zurrer | SWE / Jitex BK

    M- Jessie Fleming | CAN / London NorWest United

    M- Kaylyn Kyle | USA / Houston Dash

    M- Ashley Lawrence | USA / West Virginia University

    M- Sophie Schmidt | USA / Sky Blue FC

    M- Desiree Scott | ENG / Notts County

    F- Janine Beckie | USA / Texas Tech University

    F- Josee Bélanger | CAN / Comètes de Laval

    F- Nkem Ezurike | USA / Boston Breakers

    F- Jonelle Filigno | USA / Sky Blue FC

    F- Adriana Leon | USA / Chicago Red Stars

    F- Christine Sinclair | USA / Portland Thorns

    F- Melissa Tancredi | USA / Chicago Red Stars

    Not listed are, of course, Diana Matheson and Lauren Sesselmann, both of whom will be fervently hoping that their respective knee injuries will heal in time for them to take part in the tournament. The absence of either one of them would be a big blow to Canada's chances; not having either of them would be extra troublesome for a squad that has not been traditionally awash with depth.

    Herdman has worked hard -- and been largely effective, at times -- in bridging that gap and widening the player pool, so the loss of two crucial players like Matheson and Sesselmann can be, to some extent, mitigated. But even so, yeah, like I said, keep those fingers and toes crossed for the ladies over in China.

    The two most interesting inclusions on this roster are likely strikers Janine Beckie and Nkem Ezurike.

    Beckie, a 20-year-old playing at Texas Tech University, scored a couple of goals and impressed many with her play at last summer's Under-20 World Cup. Her goals per 90 minutes rate in her three seasons at Texas Tech have been 0.765, 0.681 and 0.891. That earned her a look from Herdman and her first cap with the senior national team in a closed-door friendly with Sweden in November.

    Ezurike, 22, is the all-time leading scorer for the University of Michigan, with 49 goals over her four-year college career. She broke onto the scene for the national-team program back in 2008, scoring two goals for Canada at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. She featured sparingly for Canada at the 2012 U-20 World Cup, but didn't get a look from Herdman until last spring's Cyprus Cup.

    It's unlikely either will be featuring for Canada at this year's Women's World Cup, but it's a shrewd move from Herdman to build up his pool of strikers as much as possible. As has been said over and over and over in this space (and will be said again, right now), Christine Sinclair won't be around forever. How much longer does she have? Well, look south of the border, where many USA fans are howling for Abby Wambach, the most prolific scorer in the history of international soccer, to no longer be a regular starter.

    Wambach, for what it's worth, is almost exactly three years older than Sinclair.

    Of course, if Sinclair (and Melissa Tancredi) can catch lightning in a bottle this summer, in the same way they did at London 2012, then they'll have cemented their legacies and ensured the goodwill will keep flowing for the Canadian team for years to come. But Herdman's job -- especially in light of a contract extension that'll supposedly see him behind Canada's bench until 2020 -- is not just to focus on the 2015 World Cup, but the 2019 World Cup as well.

    So even players who won't find themselves making the cut this summer know that the work they put in now could pay dividends down the road. That continuity can only mean good things for the program. It's why I praised Herdman's contract extension at the time, and why I continue to say that whatever happens at this year's World Cup, he should be sticking around.

    As for the immediate future, the Four Nations Cup poses some interesting challenges for Canada -- South Korea on Sunday, Mexico on Jan. 13 and China on Jan. 15.

    Canada's last encounter with South Korea was a 3-0 win in Edmonton on Oct. 30, 2013, though they can't be taken lightly, having become a consistent top-20-ranked nation that finished atop its group in World Cup qualifying. As for Mexico, Canada's had plenty of tussles with its regional rival in years past, and while the good gals have traditionally come out as winners, the Mexicans are also a team in the ascension.

    The host nation will provide the most intriguing match, given that they'll be in Group A with Canada at the World Cup. Will both teams play a cagey match, not wanting to give away too much? Or will they go all out in the hopes of terrifying the opposition? (It's the former, by the way.)

    Canada's last appearance at the Four Nations tourney in China was in 2013, in which they defeated China (yay!), lost to South Korea (boo!) and drew with Norway (meh), good enough for second place.

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