After winning the CONCACAF championship, Canada will learn its fate when the draw for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup is held at a gala ceremony in Frankfurt on Monday (CBCSports.ca, 1:30 p.m. ET).
Canada defeated Mexico in the final of the CONCACAF tournament in Cancun earlier this month, completing an incredible unbeaten run to the title that saw the team win all five of its games and outscore the opposition 17-0.
But even though the Canadians were crowned champions of CONCACAF, the soccer region covering North and Central America and the Caribbean, they will not be seeded in Monday’s draw.
The four tournament seeds are based on the overall FIFA world rankings, which means hosts Germany and the top-ranked countries from CONCACAF, South America and Asia — and not the champions of those regions — will be separated into different groups during the draw.
As a result, the United States, the No. 1 ranked team in the world, is the seeded team from CONCACAF, along with No. 3 Brazil, No. 5 Japan and No. 2 Germany.
The U.S. lost in the semifinals of the CONCACAF tournament and was forced to beat Italy in a two-game playoff to earn a World Cup berth. But they enter Monday’s draw as the CONCACAF seed, much to the consternation of Canadian coach Carolina Morace.
The Italian-born Morace, who took over the coaching reins in early 2009, concedes that the U.S. is historically one of the best teams in the world. But she feels Canada, currently ranked ninth in the world, earned the right to be seeded.
"It has to be the champion of CONCACAF … We should be there as first in our region," Morace said.
Because the U.S. is the CONCACAF seed, Canada will be drawn into the same group as one of women’s soccer’s elite teams: either Germany, the two-time defending world champions, Japan or Brazil.
However, the Canadians can not be selected to play in the same group as the U.S., a side that it has defeated just three times in its last 47 matches with its neighbours to the south.
The 2011 FIFA World Cup will take place in nine German cities, including Frankfurt, from June 26 to July 17. Monday’s draw will see the 16-team field divided into four round-robin groups and determine the first-round match-ups. The top two teams from each group will then advance to the quarter-finals.
Morace said nations such as Mexico, New Zealand and Australia have made great strides in women’s soccer over the years, and one of those teams could offer a surprise at next year’s World Cup.
But the Italian maintains that there is still a vast gap in quality between emerging countries and the game’s heavyweights such as Germany, who thrashed England 6-2 in last year’s European final to win its fifth consecutive continental crown.
Still, Morace maintains an almost fearless attitude ahead of Monday’s draw, remaining focused on her team, and seems almost uninterested as to who Canada’s World Cup opponents will be.
"I want my team to arrive [at the World Cup] in the best condition. This is my goal because all teams can become a problem if we are not in shape. I want to focus my attention on my team for sure," Morace said.
Canadian team transformed under Morace
World Cup success has thus far eluded Canada.
The Canadians did not qualify for the inaugural tournament in 1991, and failed to advance beyond the first round in 1995 and 1999. A surprising semifinal appearance in 2003 was followed by another first-round exit in 2007.
But Canada has been transformed under Morace.
Since taking over as coach, the Italian has whipped the Canadian team into shape, instilling the virtues of maintaining possession and playing one-touch soccer.
Morace's arrival marked a distinct tactical switch for the Canadian women's team. Previous coach Even Pellerud preached a one-dimensional style of play that emphasized the long ball, physical strength and endurance.
Under Morace, the Canadian team is playing a more stylish, technical and direct brand of soccer.
Now riding a wave of momentum and confidence after winning the CONCACAF championship, Morace believes Canada can contend in Germany next summer.
"Our philosophy is we don’t have to win but we have to give our maximum. This is our target," said Morace.