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FIFA Extends Investigation Into Canada Women's Soccer Team

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TEAM CANADA SOCCER FIFA
Canada's Kaylyn Kyle, right, reacts after her team's 4-3 loss to the United States in their semifinal women's soccer match at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, England. (AP Photo/Jon Super) | AP

COVENTRY, England - John Herdman says suspending Christine Sinclair for Canada's historic bronze-medal match would have robbed the London Olympics of one of the finest players in women's soccer.

Canada will have its captain and leading goal-scorer in the lineup Thursday when it battles France for its first Olympic medal, welcome news a day after the threat of FIFA sanctions hung over the squad.

"We were on tenterhooks," said Herdman, Canada's coach. "But more, just the danger of the game losing an opportunity of seeing a great player playing a bronze medal match.

"I think people came to their senses, and have made a great decision for the good of the game. I think Christine is in a great space now, there's nothing worse than going to bed wondering what's going to happen."

Canada's players are clear to start because a FIFA probe into their behaviour won't be completed before the game kicks off. The sport's governing body is investigating "incidents that occurred" following Canada's controversial 4-3 semifinal loss to the United States — a game that Sinclair and her teammates said they believed was decided by the officials.

The Canadians were openly critical of Norwegian match referee Christina Pedersen, who awarded a free kick on a call the players had said they'd never seen before against Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod. Pedersen whistled McLeod for holding the ball for more than six seconds, which led to a tying goal by the Americans.

Sinclair, who scored a hat trick in Canada's loss in arguably the best game of her career, said she doesn't regret what she said.

"It's an emotional time," said Sinclair, who has now has 143 career goals. "We just lost the semifinal of the Olympics in one way or another, and we felt a little robbed so we said those things and I don't think any of us regret anything."

Melissa Tancredi, who initially rushed past reporters after the game before returning to talk, said her words were just an outpouring of raw emotion.

"It is hard, and it is hard that you guys are right there after, when we get out," Tancredi told reporters. "That's why I kind of walked by. I was like, 'Oh, I don't know if I should say anything.' But it's hard and I'm Italian, so it doesn't hurt to say a few things.

"But it's the Olympic Games and for some of us our last Olympic Games and to have the gold medal just gone out of our view, it's hard to deal with."

The players took Tuesday to mourn the semifinal loss, and then tried to move on. But there was anxiety over the possibility that Sinclair, and potentially others, might be sidelined for what will be the biggest game in the team's history.

"In the back of my mind, I was like 'That would be an incredibly bad move,'" Tancredi said. "At this stage, you can't hold players back from a bronze medal due to passionate comments, it happens all the time. We are sorry for going so deep with them, but we couldn't hold it back obviously, and now we're out to do the next job."

The Canadians appeared to have relegated that heartbreaking game to ancient history Wednesday, smiling and joking during practice on a pristine pitch at the University of Warwick.

The deluge of support from back home has helped. The coaching staff put together a package of well-wishes for the women's team and presented it to them Wednesday morning, including a message from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a tweet from movie star Samuel L. Jackson.

After congratulating the U.S. on the win Jackson added: "Lemme say though, those Canuck Ladies brought da noise! They came to WIN! Ehhh?!!"

"I think we've gotten a glimpse of it, especially the fan support we've been getting, through email, has just been ridiculous," Tancredi said. "But to know that 10.7 million people watched our match is incredible.

"Erin (McLeod) said it today, this is what it feels like to have the country behind you. We've never had this feeling before. It's amazing to be in this position and it's an honour as well, and we take it very seriously and hopefully we do something great for this country.

"You've got to love Canada, honestly. They're so great with their sports and their sports teams, they really make you feel proud to wear the Maple Leaf."

Ceri Evans' work with the team has also come in handy the past couple of days. The New Zealander who worked with the All Blacks in last year's victorious rugby World Cup campaign, is the team's mental trainer. He's the man responsible for picking up the emotional pieces of a squad that was in tatters after its disastrous last-place World Cup performance a year ago.

Outsiders have noticed a team more relaxed than it's ever been.

"We keep that philosophy, good mood equals good work," Herdman said. "We try and keep things light. . . have a laugh, we get the balance right between working hard and chilling out.

"They've enjoyed that, being able to smile and have a joke about things. While the game's life and death, not everything else is."

The Canadians know they're in tough at City of Coventry Stadium against a France side that thrashed them 4-0 in last summer's World Cup, the game that mathematically eliminated them from the tournament.

"I think we just promised ourselves we would never feel that way again," Sinclair said. "We have to give them respect, I think that's what we were lacking in that (World Cup) game, we didn't know much about them.

"But we respect them, they're amazing. I thought they were going to win this tournament, they're that kind of opponent. We just have to prove that we're just as good if not better.

Les Bleus narrowly missed the gold-medal game, losing 2-1 to Japan in a match that could have drawn level but for a missed penalty.

The women's soccer game is the marquee Canadian event Thursday.

Elsewhere, two-time Olympic medallist Tonya Verbeek looks to make another trip to the Olympic wrestling podium in the 55-kilogram class.

Damian Warner of London, Ont., begins the second day of the decathlon in third place, while Vancouver's Elizabeth Gleadle will be the first Canadian women to compete in an Olympic javelin final since 1988.

At the pool, Montreal's Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion, who captured bronze in the women's 10-metre synchronized diving last week, compete in the individual event.

Related on HuffPost:

Women's Olympic Football: Canada Vs. U.S
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