VANCOUVER, B.C. – Snowy Vancouver, Canada, is hosting the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament for the upcoming Summer Olympics. The tournament starts on Thursday, January 19th and runs until Sunday January 29th. All games will be played at the newly refurbished BC Place Stadium. Two of the eight teams from CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) will earn a trip to London, England.
Team Canada is ranked 7th in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings. They’re led by a strong core of veteran players that includes world-class player Christine Sinclair, Brittany Timko, Rhian Wilkinson and their ever-engaging goalkeeper, Karina LeBlanc. Canada has a very talented squad of players that makes them a heavy favourite to potentially win a semi-final game and book a trip to London.
The Canadian Women’s National team has not played a game in BC since March 2006. With this tournament being held in Vancouver, it’s a great opportunity for them to gain more exposure and support for Women’s Soccer throughout BC and Canada after a disastrous and disappointing World Cup performance last summer in Germany. One of the players who competed in the World Cup is midfielder and Abbotsford, BC, native, Sophie Schmidt. Schmidt is a key player for Canada who is eager to move forward after what happened in Germany.
“I have confidence in our team the players the coaching staff,” said Schmidt. “I think that we’ve come a long way since Germany. That was kind of a let-down but I think that’s in the past and we’re moving on to the future and we’re really focused to qualify and we see ourselves to be a great team and we believe it so hopefully we’ll go out and do that.”
Team Canada Coach, John Herdman, took over for Carolina Morace last September and he has given the team a new sense of enthusiasm and excitement that was lacking under Italian Coach Morace. Herdman is a players’ kind of coach and has already made a huge difference to the team. You can really tell that players like midfielder Kaylyn Kyle, from Saskatoon, SK, love playing for him.
“If you want to talk to him about something he’s always there, whether it’s soccer or not. He’s very soccer-smart, both tactically and technically. He just makes you enjoy the sport again and makes you want to play for your team and for your country. He brings a lot of different dimensions to the team and all of them positive.”
All-time Canadian goal-scoring leader and team captain, Christine Sinclair, will be counted on to find the back of the net for Canada. Sinclair also had a lot of good things to say about Coach Herdman.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is his belief in balance,” she said. “These past two days, he’s allowed players to go visit friends and family. We haven’t had to practice, which has been nice, and with that comes the passion for the game. You see veteran players watching video just trying to do anything to improve that little bit.”
Sinclair is one of six players on Team Canada that was born and raised in British Columbia and will be playing in front of her friends and family starting on Thursday night. Striker Chelsea Buckland is from North Delta, midfielder Brittany Timko hails from Coquitlam, Sophie Schmidt is from Abbotsford, center back Shannon Woeller is from Vancouver, and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc is from Maple Ridge.
This tournament will be extra special for those players with BC roots. Karina LeBlanc is particularly thrilled about this opportunity: “It’s going to be fantastic. I remember when I was younger, watching athletes going into the BC Lions game and thinking ‘This is really cool.’ Now to be on the field playing…I think it’s remarkable.”
23 year-old Sophie Schmidt is really looking forward to having all her friends and family in attendance from Abbotsford who have supported her throughout her rise to the Canadian National Team. Schmidt is also pretty pumped to play for Canada in Vancouver.
“I’m sure that it will be a lot of excitement… playing in front a home crowd, you want to do well. I think it’s just a great opportunity to finally give back to the family and friends who supported me throughout the years. I think it’s kind of a cool opportunity for the fans here to finally get to see you live. It’s not something that happens every year.”
Canada has a favourable trio of opponents that should be to their advantage. If you can’t make it to Vancouver, all 15 games from this tournament will be shown on live on Rogers Sportsnet. Here’s Team Canada’s schedule.
Thursday January 19th vs Haiti at 7:30pm Haiti is ranked 62nd.
Saturday January 21st vs Cuba at 7:30pm Cuba is ranked 96th.
Monday January 23rd vs Costa Rica at 7:30pm Costa Rica is ranked 41st.