Canadian women's soccer team primed for knockout rounds, says Herdman
'Gritty' team is 'not overconfident,' says coach Herdman
By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
After dispatching two top-five countries in round-robin play, Canada's women's soccer team is primed for the knockout rounds at the Olympics, says coach John Herdman.
The 10th-ranked Canadian women renew acquaintances with a familiar foe in France in Friday's quarter-final at the Corinthians Arena. Canada is winless in its last three matches with the third-ranked French since the 2012 Games but holds Olympic soccer bragging rights having defeated France 1-0 to win bronze four years ago in London.
Herdman likes what he sees in his squad, which is two wins from climbing the medal podium again.
"This is a Canadian team that's very gritty, that's got a good spirit. And at this point, they're not overconfident ... there's a quiet confidence about them," he said Wednesday while waiting for a plane from Brasilia to Sao Paulo.
The feeling among the players, he said, is that no matter who they play, "we'll give them a great game and we've got a chance."
The Canadians lost 1-0 to France in Auxerre in their final pre-Olympic tune-up, victimized by a Camille Abily free kick.
Canada defeated No. 2 Germany 2-1, No. 5 Australia 2-0 and No. 93 Zimbabwe 3-1 to win Group F.
"We want to be a threat to Tier 1 opposition every single time we step on the pitch and I think we've shown that in the group stage, that we can compete and get results against these teams," said defender Rebecca Quinn, who turns 21 on Thursday.
Despite its success, due to the draw Canada has a tougher quarter-final foe than Group F runner-up Germany, which faces No. 12 China.
Canada and Germany could meet again in the semifinals if both advance.
The other quarter-finals have the top-ranked Americans playing No. 6 Sweden and No. 5 Australia facing No. 8 Brazil.
Herdman says his players weren't looking at the draw ahead of the Germany game.
"They were very clear what they wanted to do," he said in an interview. "They wanted to make history, they wanted to finish top of the group ... set a high standard for any other Canadian team."
It marks the first time a Canadian senior team — men or women — has beaten Germany. The Canadian women had lost all 12 previous meetings with the Germans.
The only other time the Canadian women have topped a preliminary-round group in a senior global tournament was at last summer's World Cup when they finished first in their pool with a 1-0-2 record. Canada lost 2-1 to England in the quarter-finals of that tournament, which featured 24-teams as opposed to 12 in the Olympics.
On Tuesday, Canada beat Germany without talismanic captain Christine Sinclair. Fellow forward Janine Beckie was also rested while veteran attacking midfielder Diana Matheson didn't come on until the 64th minute.
That meant Canada's bench had 520 caps and 203 goals, not counting defender Kadeisha Buchanan who is eligible to return Friday after serving a one-game ban for yellow card accumulation.
"It just shows how deep our team is now," said Herdman. "How the culture has sort of changed. There's a lot of trust across the group. I think that came out in the performance."
Herdman says that progress has been four years in the making.
"We said we wanted to come into this tournament being the most organized and adaptable team," he said. "We said we wanted to be the most connected team at the tournament as well. That hard work, years of toil are looking like they're paying off."
The adaptability has been shown by the fact that Canada has played a variety of formations and used every player on its roster.
France beat Colombia 4-0 and New Zealand 3-0 around a 1-0 loss to the U.S.
The Canadians are comfortable in Sao Paulo, having played their first two pool games here.