Canada set to begin Women's World Cup quest
CONCACAF qualifying tournament first step toward qualification
Rivals old and new stand between the Canadian national team and the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.
If Canada is to book its flight to Germany next June, it will first have to navigate its way through the upcoming CONCACAF World Cup qualifier.
Scheduled for Oct. 28 to Nov. 8, the eight-team competition serves as the qualifying tournament for next year's World Cup and will see Canada play in Group A with hosts Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. Group B includes the United States, Costa Rica, Haiti and Guatemala.
The tournament finalists will automatically earn a World Cup berth while the third-place team will meet Italy in a two-game playoff for the right to travel to Germany.
Mexico will be toughest test
Canada is currently ranked No. 13 in the FIFA world rankings, and expectations are running high that the team will be able to qualify for its fifth consecutive World Cup.
"I think our chances of qualifying directly for the World Cup are very good," Canadian forward Christine Sinclair told CBCSports.ca.
"Our toughest test will be against Mexico in our last [group-stage] game, so I think it's good that we have two matches before that. If we play well, we should be in the semifinals, hopefully avoiding the United States."
Soccer fans can watch the Canadian women's national team compete at the 2010 CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on CBC.
All three of Canada's group-stage matches will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca and air on the main CBC network and on Bold, CBC's digital channel.
Fans can also watch live coverage of the semifinals and final on CBCSports.ca
To read about CBC's broadcast coverage of the tournament, CLICK HERE.
Winning Group A is the key for the Canadians, as a first-place finish would put them on the fast track to Germany. Finishing second would likely mean a semifinal showdown with the U.S., provided the Americans win Group B, and a much harder qualification path to the World Cup.
"I don't think about it because if we take care of business in our first three games, we won't have to worry," Sinclair, 27, said of a potential semifinal match with the U.S.
For all the hype surrounding games between Canada and the U.S., the reality is the Americans enjoy what could charitably be described as a lopsided advantage in the series. Canada has won just three times and earned four draws in the last 47 competitive matches with their southern neighbours.
If Canada can avoid the U.S. in the semifinals, it stands a much better chance of qualifying directly for the World Cup and avoiding the playoff with the European side.
"Obviously, we look at Trinidad and Guyana and think we should be able to beat them," admitted Sinclair. "With Mexico, they're an up-and-coming team that has knocked us out of Olympic qualifying before [in 2004]. … But if we play well, this group shouldn't give us too many issues."
Roster not yet finalized
Canadian midfielder Kaylyn Kyle, who recently turned 22, is just as confident as Sinclair that Canada can reach the tournament finals and qualify directly for the World Cup
"We do have the players to do it," Kyle said. "It's an incredible bunch. Its not just the 11 players on the field; we also have great depth, and that goes a long way.
"We have the drive and determination where we can go into a tournament like this and have our personalities persevere on the field. We'll have no problem finishing first or second."
Canada's opening game is Friday against Trinidad and Tobago (streamed live on CBCSports.ca at 6 p.m. ET), but national team coach Carolina Morace isn't expected to name her final roster until Thursday.
In doing so, the Italian has created a more intense and competitive camp in Cancun, Mexico, where the women's team is currently training ahead of the tournament.
"We have a lot of talent on this team that helps you improve every single day," said Kyle, one of the younger and less experienced players in camp.
"I come to training every day knowing I have to work to earn a spot, and my mindset doesn't change. With Carolina waiting until late to name the roster, it helps the younger players out to give us that extra time to prove ourselves."