Canada has clawed its way into the knockout rounds at the Women's World Cup. Now to advance, it must do what it has failed to do in five previous tournaments — beat a team from Europe.
Going into Sunday's round-of-16 match with No. 19 Switzerland at B.C. Place Stadium, Canada's World Cup record against European opposition is 0-9-1. Should it get past the debutante Swiss, a matchup with either No. 6 England or No. 11 Norway looms in the quarter-finals
Coach John Herdman's record at the Canadian helm against European teams in all competitions is 18-9-5, including wins over Britain and France in the quarter-final and bronze-medal match at the 2012 Olympics.
"The bottom line is we know the Europeans are very well-organized," Herdman told a media conference call Thursday. "They have a very disciplined approach to their style and they're outstanding on the counter-attack. That's what they play every weekend in the European leagues.
"So we have to find a way, Canada, because we don't have another chance. We don't get another chance at this game. And our style and our approach will have to be better to overcome what the Swiss are going to throw at us."
Sophie Schmidt is expected to play Sunday, albeit in pain. The influential midfielder from Abbotsford, B.C., came off in the 81st minute of Canada's 1-1 tie with the Netherlands on Monday after falling awkwardly challenging for a ball.
Herdman said she has a painful bruise around the hip that has limited her mobility.
"She'll not miss the opportunity of playing at B.C. Place in her home town in this crucial match for Canada, no matter how much pain she's in," said Herdman.
Pain aside, Herdman is expecting big things from Schmidt, who can be both goal-scorer and provider.
"The tournament is really just starting to begin now," he said. "These are the big games where big players step up and that's what we're hoping for for Sophie Schmidt. This is where you get a chance to sort of write your name in football history when you play in these big matches."
Captain Christine Sinclair is no stranger to stepping up, saving the day for Canada in the tournament opener with a late penalty against China. Canada will be looking to her to add to her total of 154 goals, to help spark a Canadian offence that misfired more often than not in the first round.
Eighth-ranked Canada had targeted a round-of-16 return for veteran midfielder Diana Matheson, who is coming off knee surgery and a broken foot. Herdman said Matheson suffered a minor setback prior to the Dutch game with a mild quad strain but could be available for selection if she trains well.
Herdman calls the Swiss a well-organized team whose players ply their trade at the highest level of women's football, in Germany and Sweden.
But the big threats are forwards Ramona Bachmann and Lara Dickenmann.
"It really is Bachmann and Dickenmann that set that team alight and they're in very good form from what we can see in this tournament," said Herdman.
Bachmann and midfielder Fabienne Humm both had hat tricks in a 10-1 win over Ecuador.
Switzerland, third in Group C, lost 1-0 to Japan and 2-1 to Cameroon.
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