VANCOUVER, British Columbia – It’s win or go home for Canada on Sunday afternoon at BC Place. Switzerland will try to knock out Canada and earn a trip to the quarterfinals.
It won’t be an easy match for either side. The last matchup between these two nations went to Canad, a 2-0 victory over the Swiss at the 2013 Cyprus Cup. An expected crowd of 50,000 fans will be behind Canada supporting the Red and White as they look to make history on home soil. The feeling of being back at home in Vancouver has the players feeling comfortable with their surroundings. That can also hurt Canada with unneeded distractions. Coach John Herdman talked about his team preparations leading up to that all important encounter with Switzerland.
“Yeah the preparation’s been great, he said. “I think for everyone just coming back to Vancouver is a breath of fresh air. As a group we hoped that this would happen, we planned for it to happen and we’re here. I know getting off the airplane it’s my hometown, Sophie’s (Schmidt’s) hometown. The girls have been living here for a couple of years pretty much with the training environment so it just feels like home. That’s got it’s positives and negatives. I think sometimes when you feel at home you get a bit comfortable, but we’ve stayed on top of things and been diligent with our processes. I just can’t wait to get out there and play in front of that packed crowd it’s going to be class.”
Switzerland coach and former Germany international Martina Voss-Tecklenburg knows the importance of a winner take all match. Her experience on the big stage as a player will help Switzerland prepare for the high stakes of the match, and what will be a crowd rooting against the Swiss.
“You have to win or you will be knocked out,” she said. “We haven’t had that situation before. It’s a very special situation. We have an atmosphere that will be unique. We want to enjoy ourselves and contribute to that.”
Switzerland has a pair of game-breakers that could potentially cause Canada trouble. Kadeisha Buchanan, Carmelina Moscat, and perhaps Lauren Sesselmann, if she starts, will have to be careful of the speed, creativity, and poise of the ‘Alpine Messi” — Ramona Bachmann. Lara Dickenmann will also be tough to handle if she is give room to maneuver. If Canada can shutdown the most vital players on the Swiss roster it could lead to a victory. Getting back and preventing counter-attack breaks will be key for Canada. The hosts have struggled when teams have exploded on them via a quick turnaround up the pitch. Herdman knows how deadly Switzerland can be if they get out in front quickly.
“With Dickenmann and Bachmann they play well together and that’s a big part,” Herdman said. “The girls have looked at the footage and we’ve come up with a few strategies that we have in the bank. I think the principal is generally to keep the team tight and I think that’s what’s hurt us in previous games. We were caught in transition quite a lot in the Dutch game, same with New Zealand. Teams have found it hard to break our blocks down. It just seems that when we give the ball away sloppily the gaps are just too big. If we give too many balls away to the Swiss team those two players are in form. They’re in real good form, they’ll hurt you.”
Dickenmann is expecting a strong and physical match vs Canada. The Olympique Lyonnais player knows all to well what type of skill set Christine Sinclair has. In 2004, Dickenmann was playing for Ohio State and Sinclair with the Portland Pilots. The match was scoreless with little to no contribution from Sinclair. The Canadian striker came out of nowhere and scored at the death to lift Portland to victory. Dickenmann vows not to be distracted by Sinclair or the rest of the Canada team.
“They’re very solid,” Dickenmann says. “Physically there in very good shape, they bring a lot of energy to the pitch. A lot of screaming and positive energy to the team, from the bench as well. That can be a distraction for us. They have very good individual players like Christine Sinclair a very experienced player. A player that can make a difference at anytime. They have very strong players, fast players, they have a lot of things.”
Canada caught a scare when Schmidt took a nasty fall against the Netherlands. She was sporting crutches when the team landed at the airport in Vancouver on Tuesday. The extra amount of days in between matches has allowed her to rest and heal her back bruise. Schmidt gave the all-clear and has left her inclusion in Canada’s lineup up to Herdman.
“I am crutch-free,” she said Saturday. “I’ll be training today and I’m planning to play tomorrow if John puts me in the lineup. Thank goodness for the last five days. I’ve had a little bit of a break and the staff has done an amazing job taking care of me getting me back to health and I feel good. It’s all about getting ready for tomorrow.”
The bigger injury mystery for Canada belongs to midfielder Diana Matheson. The Washington Spirit midfielder has yet to play any minutes for Canada at the World Cup. Matheson’s ACL injury and broken foot have left her playing status in a cloud of uncertainty. She won’t start against Switzerland, but could be brought in off the bench if the situation and timing is right. Herdman provided an update on Matheson’s comeback and how much of an inspiration she would be for Canada if she finds the pitch.
“She’s done amazingly well to come back from what she’s comeback from and just the ups and downs in training,” Herdman said. “We’ve had her on the pitch full training yesterday and full contact. She’s done two of them now and it’s been wonderful now just to see the quality she brings to the team. She smashed one in from 25 yards in training and the whole team just erupted. It’s just nice for ‘D.’ It’s got to be the right time. It’s got to be the right moment for Diana. Will she start the game? She’s not ready for that. Certainly there could be a moment there where we feel she can play at the impact required.”
There was a lighter moment during the Canada press conference at BC Place when Herdman was asked to provide another all-star caliber quote from a Swiss reporter. Herdman reflected on an unforgettable moment with Bachmann when he was the coach of New Zealand. Herdman bumbled a ball that went out-of-bounds. Bachmann had a go at Herdman and his choice of footwear.
“Ramona played against us in New Zealand and I went to control the ball and I had these stupid shoes on,” Herdman said. “It actually went over my foot and I wasn’t being funny. It just literally went over the front of my shoe and she came and give us some grief. She told me my shoes were ugly and I had terrible control, and a little bit more direct than that. I’ve got nothing but praise for Ramona. I love what she brings to the game, it’s the sort of player that I love to watch. She’s the Messi of Switzerland and potentially the next Marta. That’s the sort of quality she’s got. I love to watch her play and hate to be playing against her.”
Canada and Switzerland have the makings to produce a wonderful match that we won’t soon forget. A lot is on the line as the winner will move to the quarterfinals against Norway or England. A match that would require no flight as it will take place at BC Place on Saturday.
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