The Canadian women's soccer team has their eyes set on winning gold at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Thursday, but first they must get by a familiar foe.
Brazil, the two-time defending Pan Am champions, will be aiming for the same prize when the two sides clash at Omnilife Stadium at 5 p.m. local time (6 p.m. ET).
"I think it is going to be a heck of a final," Canadian head coach John Herdman told the Canadian Soccer Association's website. "It will be the team with more heart and more legs that wins."
Canada and Brazil met earlier in the Games in group play and battled to a 0-0 draw. The two teams finished first overall, dead even on all tie-breaker categories, so a drawing of lots was required to separate the two sides. Brazil won first place after its name was pulled in the draw.
Canada reached the gold-medal game with a 2-1 win over Colombia — thanks to Robyn Gayle's first international goal in the 88th minute — while Brazil squeaked by hosts Mexico 1-0 in the other semifinal.
"I think the last match [against Brazil] was very even," said Herdman. "I think fitness will be the big deciding factor between the two teams."
New coach Herdman showcases young talent
Herdman, in his first major competition since succeeding Carolina Morace as head coach in early September, has a 3-1-2 record since taking over. Two of those matches, a draw and a loss, came against the U.S. in a two-game friendly series before the Pan Am Games.
In Mexico, Herdman, the former New Zealand manager, has deployed all 18 players on his roster, including four teenagers —goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands, defender Vanessa Legault-Cordisco, midfielder Diamond Simpson and striker Amelia Pietrangelo.
Captain Christine Sinclair, Canada's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, leads the squad, along with midfield maestro Diana Matheson. Striker Christina Julien of Williamstown, Ont., has enjoyed a promising tournament so far and leads Canada with two goals.
Brazil has a handful of starters from its 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup team in Mexico, but two of the soccer's biggest stars are not among them. Marta, five-time FIFA player of the year, and Cristiane are taking the tournament off.
Canada and Brazil have tied four consecutive matches dating back to July 2008.