This is it ladies and gentlemen, one more win and the Canadian women are off to London this summer to play for Olympic gold. But to do that, they've got to run through the 21st ranked Mexicans, who are not the cake walk that were Canada's group stage opponents.
It's the old song, right down to a T -- win and you're in, lose and you're out. And there is no inter-confederation playoffs to save the day, either.
Canada may hold a 16-1-1 record against the Mexicans, but one has to remember that the lone loss kept Canada out of the 2004 Olympic tournament. The Mexicans, who were widely expected to be Canada's opponents in the semi-finals (given the way the tournament was set up, you pretty much could bet the farm on it...not to say you should) were beaten by the Yanks 4-0 in their final group game, but remember...had knocked off those same Americans less than two years ago during World Cup qualification.
- Know Your Enemy: Two words -- Maribel Dominguez. This 32-year old dynamo who plays in the Spanish women's La Liga is Mexico's answer to Christine Sinclair. Dominguez was the spark that laid the killer blow in 2010 that the Americans could not recover from, and she is threatening to do it again. The defence will have to keep this livewire, and her supporting cast which includes Veronica Perez, quiet.
- More Rest, Less Rest: The Canadians have had an extra day to recover than the Mexicans, which could prove to be a blessing and a curse at the same time. How that will play out remains to be seen.
- Herdman's Day Out: This is perhaps John Herdman's biggest test as Carolina Morace's replacement; the latter was fired after the disaster in Germany. No doubt he will be feeling the pressure, especially from some senior players who are chomping at the bit to redeem themselves to the country.
- Sinclair, Sinclair, Alleluia: She's saved our blushes so many times -- but which Christine Sinclair will stand up on Friday night? No doubt the Mexicans will be watching her like a hawk, double...nay, triple marking the sniper. Some call her the greatest; but tonight that greatness must shine in order to secure passage to London.
- Oh My, Defence: Largely untested through the last three games, Canada's defence was rather shaky when it gave up the goal against Costa Rica. Against a stronger offense, how will it hold?
Tune in tonight at 8:30pm MST (10:30pm EST) on Sportsnet for the thrilling second-last chapter to this story. Will the Canadians get a chance to play for Olympic hardware? And will I flub any lines during MRU TV's first 3pm Connected news show of 2012? Tune in to find out more!