11/22/2013 09:21 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

Date Circled: Canada continues 2015 Women's World Cup preparations with friendly

VANCOUVER - John Herdman has the date of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final circled on his calendar.

"And we're working back from that bloody day," the coach of the Canadian women's soccer team said with a laugh. "The next day, I don't know where I'll be."

July 5, 2015, is still more than 19 months away, but Canada's preparations continue Sunday with an international friendly against Mexico at B.C. Place Stadium, the very pitch where the final will be played.

"We're building towards that," said Canadian captain Christine Sinclair. "Obviously that's the end goal, but we can't look too far ahead."

Canada, which is ranked seventh by FIFA and as World Cup hosts won't play a meaningful game until the start of the tournament, has just completed a three-week training camp in suburban Vancouver.

After playing to an uninspiring 3-0 victory over South Korea in Edmonton last month, Herdman wants to see improvement against the 24th-ranked Mexicans.

"My expectations go up a bit. You expect them to start hitting some targets from a statistical perspective," Herdman said Friday at B.C. Place. "The opportunity we've got to just get ready for the World Cup is outstanding.

"There's no real excuses."

With so much time between games that actually matter, Canada will have to find motivation from elsewhere, and it begins with players knowing that a lot of jobs are up for grabs.

"When you're clear on what your goal is, every game has a real clear purpose," said Herdman. "We've got a very clear goal in what we want to achieve in this World Cup.

"The squad is starting to deepen and the competition for places — outside of Sinclair and one or two other players — is as strong as it's ever been. (There's) a lot of pressure on this team."

Canadian midfielder Kaylyn Kyle said even though the games don't count right now, the team feeds off of Herdman's desire for success.

"He is such a driven and passionate person," she said. "He takes every game like it's a World Cup final."

Sunday's game marks Canada's first in Vancouver and the first against Mexico since a 3-1 Canadian win at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament that secured a spot in the London Olympics.

Canada would eventually go on to win bronze at a Games that included a memorable semifinal loss to the United States.

"John showed us a little video of highlights from that game," said Sinclair. "It's pretty special knowing that what we achieved in London would have never happened had we not gotten that result against Mexico."

Of the 23 players named to the squad for Sunday, 18 were part of the roster that took part in the victory against South Korea.

Not having to qualify for the World Cup gives Herdman options to tinker with his lineup and formation.

"If you're going to be successful, you've got to experiment with the edges of your core," he said. "If anything happens to those (starting) players, that core, sub-core, whatever you want to call them, have to be ready.

"There will be a time where we'll have to make sure Christine sits on the bench, whether she like it or not, just so players get used to 'How do we cope without Christine Sinclair?"

Included in the team are a pair of inexperienced defenders — 16-year-old Sura Yekka and 20-year-old Rachel Melhado — along with 27-year-old forward Kara Lang, who retired almost three years ago after suffering two serious knee injuries.

Herdman, who coached against Lang while with New Zealand, was initially baffled when he got word that she was out of the game at such a young age.

"I was surprised when I came into Canada that she'd retired as a 24-year-old," said the Englishman. "It just didn't make sense. In this era of modern science, sports science, sports medicine, I couldn't get my head around her."

He eventually approached Lang, who had switched over to broadcasting, to see what could be done and if she was interested in a comeback.

"As soon as you lit that fire, that was it," he said.

Lang, who is second behind Sinclair in all-time scoring for Canada with 35 goals in 92 games and has been going through an extensive rehabilitation process, is getting closer but will not feature on Sunday against Mexico.

"The dream has not come true yet," said Herdman, who hopes to have Lang back on the field in 2014. "But it's certainly on track."

Notes: Canada's next game is Jan. 31 against the U.S. in friendly to be played in Frisco, Texas. ... Prior to the victory over South Korea, Canada lost 3-0 to the U.S. and 1-0 to Germany.