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  • Christine Sinclair and CanWNT off to flying start in World Cup year

    Now, yes, I've said repeatedly in this space -- and will continue to do so -- that one of the most important roles for head coach John Herdman is to figure out the plan for the post-Sinclair era. Canada's success over the past decade has been due, in large part, to Sinclair's at-times-otherworldly talent. That's not to detract from the skills or accomplishments of other members of her national-team generation; but it's indisputable that Canada is a profoundly more dangerous team with an in-form Sinclair than they are without her.

    The truth is, we haven't seen Sinclair at the height of her powers since the 2012 London Olympics, where she almost managed to barge Canada into the gold-medal final. The Canadian captain scored just once in all of 2014, though thankfully midfielder Sophie Schmidt was able to help fill the void, notching a half-dozen goals in perhaps her finest year as a member of the national team.

    Sinclair, of course, still won Canadian female player of the year because, if we're being honest, hers is the only name that some voters would even recognize. Anecdotal evidence suggests that those who follow the team most closely funneled their votes towards the likes of Schmidt, Diana Matheson, Desiree Scott and Erin McLeod. And indeed, Schmidt, McLeod and Matheson (if, fingers crossed, she's fit to play) will have massive, fundamental roles to play for Canada at the World Cup.

    But Sinclair still is -- and will remain, until several years after she's officially retired -- the face of the women's national team.

    So if this tournament is a sign that she has rediscovered her magic, it's an excellent development not just for the marketing of the team and the tournament, but for Canada's chances of advancing deep in the competition. If Matheson isn't recovered from her knee injury in time (again, fingers crossed), it means increased responsibilities for the likes of Schmidt (i.e. don't count on her to lead Canada in goals against this year).

    And when it comes to Canada's strike force -- well, Herdman has done the best he can in finding solutions for that post-Sinclair era. It's already included coaxing Kara Lang and Josee Belanger out of national-team retirement, though Lang has suffered another catastrophic injury, and Belanger hasn't recaptured her previous national-team form.

    It's also included the selective introduction of youngsters such as Janine Beckie who, in the game against South Korea, notched her first national-team goal in just her second senior appearance. Teenage centre-back Kadeisha Buchanan also popped her second national-team goal in the tourney, as she continues developing into the new, female version of Kevin McKenna.

    Adriana Leon also found the back of the net in China; another encouraging sign given that players such as Leon and Jonelle Filigno will likely be the ones relied upon up top for Canada in the years to come. For Canada to have success in the aforementioned post-Sinclair era, those sorts of players will need to step up and provide goal-scoring punch on a consistent basis.

    But whatever may happen years from now, one thing is clear -- if Canada is going to have success at home in the World Cup, they will need to score goals. That means they will need their best player to be their best player.

    And if the BaoAn Cup is any indication, Christine Sinclair might once again be preparing to peak at precisely the right moment for her country.

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