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Canadians prep for final friendly before World Cup

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Canadians prep for final friendly before World Cup



KINGSTON, Ont. (CP) - Brittany Timko took a soft pass from coach Even Pellerud during a shooting drill late in Saturday's practice, hammering the ball into the top corner of the net.

One of her teammates cheered: "Brittany Timko, that was hot!" Christine Latham did a little dance after her bullet of a shot found its mark. The mood was light as the Canadian women's soccer team practised at Queen's University in preparation for Sunday's friendly against Australia. The game is a chance to iron out any last-minute wrinkles and gain that little bit of precious extra playing time together before the women's World Cup kicks off next week, and things become decidedly not so friendly.

"We're just trying to get some cohesiveness going before the World Cup," said veteran Silvana Burtini. "Obviously Australia has a very good team as well, we're dealing with some issues with changes in the back line, and with some injuries.

"It's more just trying to play together, trying to fine tune and making sure we're all on the same page before going into the World Cup."

The Canadian side has been hit hard by the injury bug the last few days, and Pellerud says he's not asking for much Sunday: a good solid effort and his players still in one piece would make him happy.

A team still smarting from the loss of defender-midfielder Candace Chapman, who tore a knee ligament and is out six-to-nine months, the Canadians could lose defender Breanna Boyd for the World Cup. A mainstay on the Canadian team's backline, Boyd is still feeling the effects of a concussion and is in Edmonton, where she'll be evaluated Tuesday to see if she's fit to rejoin the squad.

Defender Randee Hermus spent the practice on the sidelines Saturday with an ice pack strapped to her to lower leg, and was walking gingerly. Pellerud said she was feeling pain from an old fracture to her fibula.

And hard-nosed midfielder Carmelina Moscato has been nursing stress fractures in both ankles the past month and a half but is on the mend and took part in most of Saturday's practice.

"At the moment, it's important to stay healthy because we have too many injuries," said Pellerud. "But (our focus is) to have a good performance, not necessarily outplaying Australia or playing the best game ever, but just a good basic performance."

With the holes in the backline, and an abundance of goal-scorers in Kara Lang, Christine Sinclair, Christine Latham, Kristina Kiss and Charmaine Hooper, Pellerud moved veteran striker Hooper back to defence for Canada's two exhibition games against Mexico. He also named national team rookie Tanya Dennis to the squad after she impressed on defence in the two games against Mexico.

The Canadians outscored Mexico by a combined 14-0 and lifted their unbeaten streak to nine games.

But there's still plenty of work to be done on the defensive side.

"We have a lot of young players, and have had to make some changes because of some injuries, so we're just concentrating on ourselves," defender Sharolta Nonen said of her team's approach to the Australia game.

Canada, ranked 12th in the world, split a two-game series with the Aussies in 2002, winning the first 2-0 in Vancouver, then dropping the second 1-0 two days later in Victoria.

The No. 15-ranked Australians - or Matildas - have been inconsistent and are coming off a 1-0 win over Scotland where they ended a five-game winless streak and broke a 497-minute scoring drought.

"(Australia is) an experienced team that's been around for years and is always in the playoffs," said Pellerud. "An all-around good team."

There's a chance - albeit slight - that Canada could see Australia down the road in the World Cup.

Canada opens the 16-team world championship tournament Saturday against world No. 3-ranked Germany in Columbus, Ohio, then plays Argentina on Sept. 24 before heading to Foxboro, Mass., to play Japan in its final preliminary-round game Sept. 27. Should Canada finish in the top two and advance to the quarter-finals in Portland, they would meet either the first- or second-place finisher of Pool D - China, Ghana, Australia or Russia, ranked in that order.

The Americans head into the World Cup the top-ranked team, while Norway is No. 2, followed by Germany, China and Sweden.

The Canadians should enjoy a sold-out crowd for their final sendoff Sunday. Just over 8,000 tickets had been sold Saturday afternoon for the 10,200-seat Richardson Stadium on the Queen's University campus, and Canadian Soccer Association officials were expected a large walk-up crowd.

Richardson Stadium was selected to host the game because it is the second-largest natural grass stadium in Canada behind Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.

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