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Canadians, Argentines look to steady sinking ships

22 September 2003

by FIFAworldcup.com


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Canada were tipped by nearly everyone to make their first impact on a FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in this their third appearance. A disappointing 4-1 loss in their first match against European Champions Germany has some questioning that prediction, but the Canucks are confident heading into their must-win match with Argentina on 25 September in Columbus, Ohio.

Their upbeat feelings are no doubt aided by the favourable draw which sees them with a chance to regroup against debutantes Argentina, who were more than overwhelmed in their first match with Japan – a crushing 6-0 loss at Crew Stadium. In short, Canada have a good chance to right their damaged ship against the South Americans before facing the likely potential must-win match against Japan in their final group encounter in Boston on 27 September.

Certainly, the vaunted Canadian attack, which got off to a perfect start against the Germans when Christine Sinclair opened the scoring with her head in the fourth minute, should be able to find their form against the smaller and more inexperienced Argentines, who were visibly shaken after seeing midfielder Natalia Gatti sent off against Japan in the 39th minute.

The hard-running and aggressive tackling of Christine Latham and Kara Lang should test the Argentines as much as the quick passing and rapid runs of Japan, but with the strength of Sinclair and potentially Charmaine Hooper in the air, the Canadians should have few problems finding the back of the net.

Of course, Hooper may again find herself in the unlikely position of centre of defence, a spot that Canadian coach Even Pellerud put her in in the first match to make room in attack for Lang, Latham and Sinclair. The success of the experiment was mixed. While Hooper was typically brave and strong in the air, heading away a number of dangerous-looking crosses, she also seemed to struggle with her positioning, and of course, it was her unnecessary handball in the box in the 39th minute that sent the Germans on their way to victory.

As Pellerud said, it was the turning point of the match, “We lost confidence after their goal. We were hesitant ,and they were able to expose us on the flanks and in the middle. The timing of the goal was unfortunate for us, but we lost to a better team today.”

Whether Pellerud will leave Hooper in the back is a question, but the coach professed faith in his team after the defeat.

“Mentally it is tough to lose 4-1 in your opening match,” he said, “But we have a few days to recover, and I am confident for Wednesday when we play our next game.”

Practically speaking, both teams need three points to keep alive their FIFA Women’s World Cup dream. As it stands, Canada would also do well to keep an eye on their goal difference, which is currently nine goals worse than Japan’s, who will be their likely rival for the all-important second spot in Group C.

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Argentina’s expectations are significantly lower and just turning in a good performance would be welcome.

“It was tough to go up against Japan in the first match,” said coach José Carlos Borello. “We were never relaxed on the pitch and therefore never managed to play the way that we are actually capable of playing.”

The promising Canucks know that their second match in Columbus is only the start of the up-hill battle.

“We have to go out and win our next two matches now,” said Sinclair.

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Charmaine Hooper keeps getting blamed for the handball that started Germany's come back. Judgeing from the TV picture, the ball touched her arm rather than her intentionally trying to control the ball. It is not uncommon on women games to see lots of handballs in the area. Most are carelessness and unintentional. But be that as it may. In this case if anybody is to be blamed is Karina LeBlanc who did not hold on to the ball, but let it keep bouncing around in the 6 yard area. A goalkeeper must take charge of that area, if not, there is hell to pay.

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I predict that Canada will win 5-1. I've noticed that Canada tends to lose focus in the dying minutes of games. That and the weakness of the defense with Boyd and Chapman out will cost us a goal or two. Japan's 8-0 victory was exaggerated by Argentina being a woman short for 50 minutes.

Don't worry about goal differential. Germany will defeat Japan by a larger margin that what they beat us. Not because Japan are a weaker team, but because Germany will be more focused from the kick off. For whatever reason they took a while to adjust in the game against Canada. That won't happen against Japan.

Canada will beat Japan on the weekend, so goal differential won't matter.

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