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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadian soccer side pumped to play Japan

Posted: 07/25/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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LONDON -- John Herdman hasn't had to bolster his players with any special messages of motivation, or implement any team-building strategies since they touched down in England.

Ten months after he took on the task of mending the battered psyche of Canada's women's soccer team, and a day before his squad opens its London Olympic campaign, the coach said his players are all business, and more than ready to play on sport's biggest stage.

"That's the brilliance of this group -- there's a maturity there," Herdman said after his team's final practice in Coventry before its opener. "They're managing internally everything they need to be ready for the Games. So my message has been really simple: Keep doing what you're doing."

The Canadians open the Olympics versus World Cup champion Japan in Coventry today, two days before the Olympic opening ceremonies in London. Canada is seeking redemption after a horrible showing at the World Cup last summer in Germany -- a last-place finish that left the team's confidence in tatters and led to the departure of head coach Carolina Morace and the hiring of Herdman.

The Canadians face what should be the toughest test of the tournament right out of the gate, playing a Japanese squad that knocked off perennial power United States in a penalty shootout to win the World Cup in Germany.

Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt calls Japan a "Barcelona-type team."

"Japan is a special team, just in the way they pass the ball," Schmidt said. "We've had discussions. We know we won't have the ball for most of the game, so we just have to take advantage when we do, make most of our chances when we do get them."

The seventh-ranked Canadians and No. 3 Japan have played each other to three wins, three losses and three draws. But the Japanese have been on the rise since their fourth-place finish in Beijing.

"They're a pleasure to watch and have taken the women's game to another level in terms of technical ability," Herdman said.

Canada was eighth four years ago in Beijing, its only other Olympic appearance.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2012 D4

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