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  1. Prior to the opening whistle, the members of the Canadian team engaged in a spirited discussion about what day of the week it actually was, since they'd crossed the international date line and their internal circadian clocks hadn't yet adjusted. Melissa Tancredi thought to search for a definitive answer online, but for some strange reason found her Internet search engine wasn't working very well. South Korea took advantage of this internal distraction to launch multiple attempts at goal... the referee quickly put a stop to it since, unlike in pinball, the multi-ball feature is not permitted in international soccer. Once the referee restored order and the one-ball system was back in effect, South Korea again took advantage -- mostly because the Canadian players were fumbling with their phones, trying to figure out why Google wasn't working properly. Yeo Minji did the damage in the 34th minute. At halftime, John Herdman -- who had watched most of the first half perched atop the stadium like an eagle, so as to get his preferred view -- put his team's mind at ease by showing them all how to create an account on Weibo. With their net-surfing itch scratched, the players came out with a full head of steam in the second half. It was, predictably, the youngsters who got the biggest boost. Janine Beckie struck early in the first half, her first goal for the senior women's national team. She celebrated by posting on Weibo: "That's what happens when Canada calls up a Beckie #ThatsRightFloro" Shortly thereafter, defender Kadeisha Buchanan got in on the fun, converting a corner kick for her second career goal for Big Red. Play was temporarily halted when a loud noise pierced the stadium; it was later revealed that the sound was a squeal of delight from Buchanan's mom. (Most surprising is that her mom was still in Canada at the time.) Once that was sorted out, Buchanan and Desiree Scott broke things down with a celebratory dance, which I won't attempt to describe in fictional terms since it apparently actually happened and we should instead use our collective energy to find a video clip of it. That, as they say, was that. Canada's next game is against Mexico on Jan. 13... or is it the 12th?
  2. 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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