Is this a medal-winning team? First, they've got to prove it. CREDIT: Sindy Thomas/Getty Images
Well ladies and gentlemen, here we are -- the Canadian women's team are finally up against a must-win game. Granted it is against the 61st ranked South Africans, who qualified by not actually facing some of Africa's top teams like Nigeria or Ghana. So maybe it's not one of those "win or go home" sort of thing, but it's pretty close.
A win here will keep the Canadians' chances for second place in the group alive, which according to the Scenario Generator and Chip Butty Maker 7000™ (patent still pending) is perhaps the best chance for Canada to get into medal contention -- a draw makes it harder, a loss means yet another humiliating early trip home. It's pretty cut and dried there, isn't it? And where better to get that win, than against the minnows of the group?
On top of the three most well-known players: captain and forward Amanda Dlamini, striker Nonpumelelelo (Mpumi) Nyandeni and back Janine van Wyk, Canada has another threat to contend with: striker Portia Modise, who is the team's current leading scorer with 71 international goals and 92 caps, and scored a consolation goal in the Banyana Banyana's opening match against Sweden with a lob from almost midfield.
Erin McLeod, if she starts (and there are those who are calling for her to be replaced), might want to keep closer to her line, lest she wants to suffer the same fate -- controlling Modise, Nyandeni and van Wyk will be even more difficult without Candace Chapman at centre back, who is listed as day-to-day after suffering an injury during the Japan game. And with Chapman's natural replacement Emily Zurrer also nursing an injury, Robyn Gayle will likely get the start. (It all seems eerily familiar, doesn't it, TFC supporters?)
Christine Sinclair will also have to turn in a much better performance: after getting triple-, quadruple- and even quintuple-teamed (I think I saw her sextuple-teamed, but I think that was something in my eye) by the Japanese on Wednesday, Sinclair and her striking partner Melissa Tancredi will have to find a way to get some goals. Sinclair is well-known to the world, but Tancredi isn't as much -- Canada could potentially exploit this, but will have to resist the temptation of playing the long ball to tee up Sinclair over and over.
Despite not really using their size advantage against Japan, the Canadians really don't need to make many changes other than the Gayle for Chapman. Swapping out McLeod for Karina LeBlanc could be another choice, which seems to be gaining some traction. Either way, the key is to play a dominant game, and to make sure that everyone is on the same page -- simple mission, right?
Canada currently sits at a goal difference of -1, while Sweden thanks to their win is at +3. Canada also leads the other two third place finishers in that same goal difference department; therefore any gains in there will need a win no matter what. How much gains will they make, will be up to Sinclair and company.
Just a reminder, this match will have a special early morning edition of WTR Live, where I will be joined by West Stand Girl Kristin Knowles in the super-top secret WTR Live Commentary Bunker starting at 9:30am ET. Do join us for good times and good chat, and perhaps win yourself a Christine Sinclair jersey (courtesy of our friends at Umbro Canada) with our "So You Think You Know Christine Sinclair?" trivia contest during the game -- so don't miss it!