This is it -- one game, all to play for. No second chances, no tomorrow unless you win. That's what's facing the Canadian women today when they take the field in Coventry; beat the hosts and an almost certain date with the US for a trip to the gold medal game is theirs. Lose, and they are going home empty handed once more.
After a horrific World Cup last year, the Canadian ladies must turn in a solid performance -- something even better than what they turned out on Wednesday when they played Sweden. Regardless of what Sweden was doing, it was a night-and-day performance from what we were shown in the first two games. Still, it wasn't enough to win the game -- something that is no longer an option in the world of knockout football.
The British will have home field on their side: if what we saw during the home team's match against Brazil at Wembley is repeated, the Coventry stadium will be filled with loud and partisan crowds. But this will be a team that hasn't really been tested so far: they have so far faced only one team in the top 10 of the FIFA Women's World Rankings, while Canada has faced two -- it's time for Canada to bring that test to the Brits.
In the one match she has done so, Lauren Sesselman has so far proven to be quite capable with leading the defense in the absence of first-choice starter Candace Chapman. She's done some excellent work throughout the entire tournament so far, and one can safely say that she's been an absolute rock back there. Her work will be crucial in trying to keep the British away.
Meanwhile, Melissa Tancredi is having the tournament of her life -- with four goals, she is currently the tournaments leading scorer. And that is exactly what we will need: As the powerhouse Brazilians have already learned, when it's on, the British defence will be difficult to pierce (when they're not busy trying to score all of Britain's goals for their forwards), and we will need to look towards Tancredi, Sinclair and even Filigno or Timko to provide those goals.
Diana Matheson, the queen of the midfield. Again, solid performance against Sweden, and will be once again crucial in making the connections between the back four and the front. So far, it's been good from Matheson -- but once again, we need more especially against a slightly younger but less experienced squad. There'll be a day for them when they re-don their English colours to shine -- but Matheson must make sure that today will not be their day.
A win tomorrow will not only be significant for a program starved of success, but a nation that is starving for some good news on the soccer front. Winning a medal (regardless of colour) will not only help boost the morale, but also start the team on a good footing heading towards the future -- a future that will include hosting the World Cup in 2015.
It's clear a lot is riding on the ladies, and they have to step it up to set that brilliant future that we as Canadian supporters crave. Will they step up to the challenge? We shall find out.