OTTAWA—Excitement and anticipation is building ahead of the 2015 Women’s World Cup draw in the nation’s capital for Canadian soccer superstar Christine Sinclair and her head coach John Herdman.
“Feeling very excited, it’s an honor having the world coming to Canada,” Sinclair said at a press conference at the Westin Hotel in downtown Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 5.
“It’s been a long process and finally tomorrow we’re going to figure out who we’re going to have to start preparing against,” Sinclair said. The long-awaited draw to place 24 teams into six groups of four takes place tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 6 at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.
“It actually feels real. We’ve been talking about this now for 2 years,” Herdman said. For Canada, it’s only been a process of preparation as the team automatically qualified as the host nation.
The rest of the field of 128 teams has been whittled down to 23. The 24 teams competing is eight more than the number of teams that competed at the last Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2011.
“I’ve got goose bumps sitting here today when I see the other coaches in the room,” Herdman said.
Herdman and Sinclair accompanied on a panel: Jérôme Valcke, FIFA Secretary General, Lydia Nsekera, Chairwoman of the Committee for Women’s Football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and Victor Montagliani, Canada Soccer President.
Make Canada Proud
For Sinclair, 2012 Canadian athlete of the year, the Women’s World Cup is a huge opportunity to make Canada proud and to further the growth of the beautiful game here.
“Soccer’s a funny game, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Sinclair. “I just try to be as prepared as possible so come tournament time I’m ready.
“Try and make the country proud with the performances that I put forth as well as the entire team. That’s all we can ask,” said Sinclair.
Soccer in Canada has tremendous penetration at the grassroots level with 865,000 players registered, with 42 percent of them being female. However, there are no professional women’s teams in Canada.
“I played in the NWSL [National Women’s Soccer League] and I’d love to see a couple of those clubs come to Canada,” Sinclair said. “Hopefully this World Cup can springboard that.”
Currently the nine-team league only has teams based in the U.S.
The 24 qualified teams with September rank in parentheses are:
CAF (Africa): Cameroon (51), Ivory Coast (64), Nigeria (35)
AFC (Asia): Australia (10), China (14), Japan (3), South Korea (17), Thailand (30)
UEFA (Europe): England (7), France (4), Germany (2), Netherlands (15), Norway (9), Spain (16), Sweden (5), Switzerland (18)
CONCACAF (North America/Caribbean): Canada (8), Costa Rica (40), Mexico (25), USA (1)
OCF (Oceania): New Zealand (19)
CONMEBOL (South America): Brazil (6), Colombia (31), Ecuador (49)
Three notably highly ranked nations that did not qualify are: North Korea (11), Denmark (12), and Italy (13).
The teams were divided into four pots of six teams based mostly on geography for the draw.
The four pots are as follows:
Pot 1: Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, USA
Pot 2: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand
Pot 3: Australia, China, South Korea, Thailand, Colombia, Ecuador
Pot 4: England, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
Pot 1 represents the six seeded teams. Canada will be placed in Group A and will play the opening match of the tournament on June 6 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
Canada will also play its second match in Edmonton. The host nation will play its third and final group stage match at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
For the draw, none of the six groups may feature more than one team from each geographic region. But due to UEFA (Europe) having eight teams qualified, two of the groups will have two European teams.
As far as hopes go, Herdman is hoping Canada doesn’t get put into another “Group of Death” like 2011 when it was stuck with Germany, France, and Nigeria.
“Nostalgically, it would be great to get my old team New Zealand,” Herdman said. “I would cherish that moment with that group of players.
“Just no Group of Death! Me and Christine will be saying our prayers tonight to make sure we don’t get that Group of Death,” Herdman said.
But he acknowledged, “If you’re going to win a World Cup at home, you’re going to have to beat the top teams.”
In particular, the two groups with two European teams could be groups of death. Sweden, England, and Norway are all highly ranked, but unseeded, and will be teams to watch out for.
“[We’re] ready to press ‘Go’ on all the scouting plans we’ve got to get done,” Herdman said as the anticipation builds.
Herdman had a message for the opposing nations: “I’ll just remind them, this is a beautiful country, so when you bring your team here, you spend as much time as you can relaxing and enjoying the scenery.
“Don’t worry about tactics—they’ll take care of themselves!”
Japan is the defending champion having beaten the U.S. in the 2011 final.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports