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Women's team preps for big game, and big audience

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Desiree Scott (centre, with arms extended), with teammates during warm-up as Team Canada practises in preparation for the game against Team USA.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Desiree Scott (centre, with arms extended), with teammates during warm-up as Team Canada practises in preparation for the game against Team USA. Photo Store

It’s a big number – 25,000 – and with it comes big responsibility.

When Canada faces the United States in the international friendly between two of women’s soccer dominant sides Thursday night at Investors Group Field, they’ll do so in front of an anticipated crowd of 25,000-plus -- one of the biggest non-Olympic or World-Cup crowds in the history of the two programs.

And many of those in attendance or watching on TV will be young girls and boys who have been drawn to the likes of Christine Sinclair, Hope Solo, Desiree Scott and Abby Wambach and see them as role models.

"It's great for us to be that example that girls look up to. We love that being in that role," said Winnipegger Desiree Scott. "Every day we're playing a sport that we love and hopefully we inspire little kids to get to where we are. We're happy to do it."

"It's a huge honour," added Sinclair, the Canadian star forward. "Heading into the Olympics, obviously we wanted to bring home a medal but, more importantly, we wanted to change women's soccer in this country. I don't think any of us could have imagined what has happened since the Olympics. It's incredible. It's a big responsibility, but we're embracing it."

Canada practised at a windswept and chilly Waverley Soccer Complex Tuesday morning and had an afternoon session played at IGF. The Americans also worked out Tuesday at IGF, but that session was close to the media.

Thursday’s game will be the second of 2014 between the two rivals, following the Americans' 1-nil win in Texas at the end of January that was played in front of 20,862 fans.

"It’s intense," said U.S. interim coach Jill Ellis. "There’s always an emotional part of a game against Canada. I think CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, in general, there are some good rivalries but certainly Canada-U.S. it’s a staple competitive battle. Two very good programs, two very good teams."

Tickets for the event are still on sale through Ticketmaster. The game will be televised on Sportsnet, as well.

"I’m really excited," said Abby Wambach, the American forward, two-time Olympic gold medalist and 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year. "We’ve developed a great rivalry between Canada and the U.S. over the last few years. They’re playing really good soccer. Obviously with the change over and Jill being our interim coach there’s different blood, different life within the team. It’s going to be a great game. I hear there’s going to be a great crowd. I hope people come out and watch."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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