The Canadian women's soccer team got down to business in practice this morning in Vancouver, ready for a do-or-die Olympic qualifying tournament on home soil.
They say that getting one of only two Olympic berths open at the CONCACAF tournament won't be about redemption, although it will certainly look like it.
Last summer, the team, rated as one of the favourites in the women's World Cup in Germany, tanked, finishing last of all teams, failing to win any games, and having only one goal to show for it: one from Christine Sinclair, even though she was wearing a mask to protect a broken nose.
The Canadian team came out of that event in shreds, but picked themselves up to win their first gold medal at a Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Now new coach John Herdman is even suggesting that with another six months of hard work, the Canadian team could actually WIN the Olympics. Never mind that they would have to come up against the powerhouse team from the United States, who are reigning Olympic champions and rated No. 1 in the world. And never mind that they'd very much like to avoid the U.S. at this tournament in Vancouver in a semi-final match. They would be hard-pressed to defeat them at this point.
Canada, currently ranked 7th in the world, and the United States are in separate groups. The United States is the only team ranked internationally ahead of Canada at this tournament.
In its group, Canada will play Haiti on Thursday, Cuba on Jan. 21 and Costa Rico on Jan. 23. Semi-final matches will be held on Jan. 27, and that will be a big day for Canada. Win that one and you're going to the Olympics.
The Jan. 29 final might almost be an anticlimax.
For Sinclair, a legend in the sport internationally, it will be "a unique experience." She says they've played two similar tournaments in Mexico, where it is not easy to play. But playing at home in front of friends and family will be an extra boost.