Canada has been to the FIFA Women's World Cup before. Four times, in fact.  

Regular appearances on the game's biggest stage haven't translated in success for the Reds, though. Some of the lustre on the team's historic fourth-place finish in 2003 has been rubbed off thanks to a disappointing first-round exit four years ago.

Failure to advance beyond the group stage in 1995 and 1999 further underscore Canada's track record of under-achievement. But to hear star forward Christine Sinclair tell it, there is something different about the current Canadian side that will compete at this summer's World Cup in Germany — the ability to grind out results and win ugly.

"We finished fourth in [2003], which is a tremendous accomplishment and I think it was unexpected. It took some luck to get there, to reach the semifinals, whereas this year's edition of our national team, we can still play badly and win, which is something we haven 't been able to do in the past," Canada's captain told CBC Sports.

"Obviously we want to play well every game, and we're going to have to in the World Cup. But we're on quite a roll right now and not every game have we played amazing [and] we still managed to win, and winning is contagious. Hopefully we can carry that on into the World Cup and now I know other countries fear us a little bit, which is nice."

At 28 years old, Sinclair is at the height of her career. The bustling and powerful forward from Burnaby, B.C., has vast experience on the international stage, having accumulated over 100 caps since making her national team debut as a 16-year-old in 2000.

Although Canada is set to stage the World Cup in 2015, there is a growing sense in the Canadian camp that this could be the last chance for veterans such as Sinclair to have a legitimate shot at winning the tournament.

"There's definitely a group of us that are about my age that we're just entering into our prime," Sinclair admitted. "We've been on the national team for a long time and we've got a lot of experience, and we have, what I think, is the best coach in the world, and we might not have this four years from now,

"So, it's now or never. That's the way we're looking at things with the World Cup, and then with the [2012] Olympics. This is our time."

As Canada's best player, Sinclair will be under the microscope in Germany. Not only will she be required to supply Canada with goals, but with leadership. Team leader is a role she's comfortable with, although she goes about it a non-traditional way,

"I'm not a rah-rah leader at all. I'm actually a pretty quiet person. But I'll lead by example and give my all every second of the game, and then off the field as well, my focus is soccer," Sinclair explained. "I feel I'm very approachable and, I have the respect of my teammates and I feel comfortable approaching members of the coaching staff."

Sinclair's leadership was tested earlier this year when the Canadian players put themselves in the middle of the dispute between coach Carolina Morace and the Canadian Soccer Association.

Morace, a 47-year-old native of Venice, threatened to quit her post following the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. The Italian submitted her resignation letter on Feb. 4, citing differences with the CSA over the long-term strategy of the women's program. As a result, the players voted unanimously to go on strike, vowing not to play an international game until the issue with Morace was resolved.

The players later backed off after CSA officials flew to Rome and met with the coach. Then, on June 9, the CSA announced Morace changed her mind and agreed to stay on as coach of the Canadian women's team through to the 2012 London Olympics.

It was a stressful situation for the players, coming at a time when they should have been focused on preparing for the World Cup. Sinclair, though, maintains the players had no choice but to stand behind their embattled coach.

"Obviously [Carolina] has done tremendous things for our team and to see her struggle and be forced into resignation was hard to watch," Sinclair admitted. "We felt like we couldn't just stand by, and we needed to show our support, and obviously it's risky going into the media in support of our coach. I'm sure we took some hits, but it was something we had to do."

Sinclair doesn't have any regrets, because she feels the standoff brought the players even closer together.

"Not only with the team but I think with the staff," she said. "I think the staff was overwhelmed with how we showed our support for them. I think it's made us more focused on our goals ahead. " Morace has been universally lauded by her players for the way she's transformed the team since taking over in early 2009, instilling the virtues of maintaining possession and playing one-touch soccer.

Her arrival marked a distinct tactical switch. Previous coach Even Pellerud preached a one-dimensional style of play that emphasized the long ball, physical strength and endurance. But under Morace, the Canadian team has adopted a more stylish, technical and direct brand of soccer.

A change in playing style was only half the story behind the Canadian team's renaissance. Morace also changed the team's training methodology, and demanded her players be faster and more physically fit.

Sinclair credits Morace for completely turning around the Canadian program, and feels it's because of the Italian that the players are riding high with confidence ahead of this summer's World Cup.

"She's completely changed our whole team — how we see the game, how we prepare, everything from how we train to how we eat, how we watch the game," stated Sinclair. "She's changed us from just pure athletes to soccer players, and brought in the tactical genius that she has.

"We've never felt more prepared heading into every single game, we know that she's given us all the tools that we need to succeed, and that's something we haven't had in the past."