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Article on Veronique Maranda

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Midfielder gets her kicks

By NEIL DAVIDSON -- Canadian Press

(CP) - Veronique Maranda turned 16 the day Canada opened play at the inaugural world women's under-19 soccer championship in Edmonton two years ago. She watched the tournament on TV.

Now the midfielder from Saint-Lambert, Que., is a playmaker for the Canadian side that takes on host Thailand in Bangkok on Saturday (check local listings).

When the inaugural world under-19 tournament was held in Canada two years ago, Maranda had been to one or two camps with the under-15 and under-16 national teams.

Watching the championships on TV, Maranda's soccer dreams grew.

"I saw an opportunity to go and play soccer at the highest level," she said Friday from Bangkok. "I started thinking more and more. I kept training hard and now here I am on the under-19 national team. It's like a dream come true."

A huge fan of Real Madrid star Zinedine Zidane, Miranda gets her kicks playing provider.

"My favourite part of the game is connecting with the striker with my passing abilities. I love getting the ball in my feet, turning and then being a playmaker. ... Giving the last pass, setting up a goal or even seeing the striker run to my ball. It's the greatest feeling I can get."

Miranda missed the start against Australia - Canada won 2-1 - after taking a blow to the head that needed stitches in a warmup game against Russia. But she came on as a substitute early in the second half Wednesday and should start against Thailand.

Brittany Timko scored both of Canada's goals against Australia and Maranda expects the 19-year-old from Coquitlam, B.C., to do some more damage at the tournament.

"She's one of the most complete players I've ever seen," Maranda said of the University of Nebraska sophomore. "She never gets tired, she has a great shot, great ability to pass. She sees the game so well and knows the game so well. We can always count on her."

Timko, a former midfielder who has moved up to striker, has 15 goals in 19 games at Nebraska this season. And her performance against Australia turned heads on FIFA's technical study group at the tournament.

"She was always calm and assured and constantly dangerous," said Tatjana Haenni of Switzerland.

"Always a threat," added Pia Sundhage of Sweden.

A story about Timko on FIFA's website was headlined: Modest Timko a Worthy Heir to Goal Queen Sinclair - a reference to Canadian striker Christine Sinclair, who was the leading scorer at the 2002 under-19 championships.

The Canadian team in Thailand runs the gamut from veterans of the 2002 tournament like Timko, captain Kara Lang and defender Robyn Gayle to 14-year-old Sydney Leroux.

"We do have a lot of fun," Maranda said. "The team is actually a great mix of experience and younger players that are the future of the Canadian team.

"Everybody gets along so well. We're like a big family here. Everyone supports each other. Age doesn't matter any more once we're on the field. It's fun, We have so much fun together."

The team even has a social captain - Halifax defender Katie Radchuk - to help map out off-field ventures like shopping or seeing a movie.

Maranda, who spent two months in camp with the Canadian team prior to this tournament, took the year off school to focus on soccer. She plans to return to her studies at CEGEP in January.

Thailand, meanwhile, has proved to be an interesting - and hot - life lesson.

"It is very crowded and there's a lot of people there," Maranda said. "I've been to China and Japan so I was kind of used to it, but this is probably the most crowded city I've ever been in."


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