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With nothing left to chance, coach says Canada ready for Swiss at World Cup

06/20/2015 06:45 EDT | Updated 06/20/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - If Canada stumbles Sunday against the Swiss at the Women's World Cup, it won't be for lack of preparation.

Coach John Herdman revealed Saturday that he has even shown his staff video of two teams at a World Cup final in the minutes ahead of a penalty shootout.

One team was disconnected, with players and staff going their own way. The other team was in a circle, getting treatment, doing all the right things.

You can guess who won the penalty shootout.

Sunday's do-or-die game against No. 19 Switzerland in the round-of-16 comes 45 months after Herdman was appointed Canadian coach. The lure of leading a team at a home World Cup — and Canada's size and commitment to the women's game — drew Herdman away from New Zealand.

Much has been made of Herdman's workaholic, leave-no-stone-unturned approach to coaching. After a somewhat shaky first round, now comes the true World Cup litmus test in the knockout rounds. There is no more room for error.

A stingy defence has helped cover for a challenged offence. Canada has created scoring chances but failed to convert them.

Herdman said that the clarity of what's needed Sunday will help his team because it knows there's a single focus.

"A draw isn't good enough. Defending well won't be enough."

Herdman himself acknowledged that eighth-ranked Canada is in a good position, rewarded for winning its group by returning to its home base of Vancouver.

Sunday's winner will meet either No. 6 England or No. 11 Norway in the quarter-finals next Saturday in Vancouver.

Herdman said it's crucial Canada stay focused on the task at hand and not underestimate the opposition — which is a far cry from his pre-New Zealand news conference where he said Canada was the better team.

While newcomers to the tournament, the Swiss are no strangers to B.C. Place having played two group games here already, losing 1-0 to Japan before thumping Ecuador 10-1.

Swiss coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, a former German international, said her players embrace the challenge of playing the host country in a packed stadium.

"Regardless of the end result it will be an incredible experience for our young team," she said through an interpreter.

"It's a lot more fun to be playing in a nearly soldout stadium than what some of our players experience every day," she added.

Canada will be looking to corral Swiss forwards Ramona Bachmann and Kara Dickenmann. Prodded on by a Swiss reporter, Herdman enthused about Bachmann, calling her the Gazza and Messi of Switzerland — referring to former English legend Paul Gascoigne and current Argentine star Lionel Messi.

"And potentially the next Marta," he said, referencing the Brazilian female star forward. "That's the sort of quality she's got."

This marks only the second time in six World Cups that Canada has advanced out of the group stage. The Canadians finished fourth at the 2003 tournament.

To keep going here, Canada must do what it has never done before — beat a European team at the World Cup. Canada is 0-9-1 against European opposition at the tournament.

Canada's all-time record against the Swiss is 3-0-1, with the last meeting a 2-0 win at the 2013 Cyprus Cup before just 50 spectators. Organizers expect a crowd of 50,000-plus Sunday.

The 2013 Swiss contest was the last game of captain Christine Sinclair's four-match ban after the 2012 Olympics for abusing an official.

Midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who arrived in Vancouver on crutches after suffering a bruised hip against the Netherlands, says she is ready to play Sunday.

"This is what I dreamed of as a little girl," she said. "And so I get to live my dream (Sunday)."

Herdman said veteran midfielder Diana Matheson, who has had to recover from knee surgery, a broken foot and quad strain, could see action off the bench in the right circumstances.

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