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Canadian women get what they needed most: Adversity

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In winning both the Gold Cup and the recent Sao Paulo tourneys, the Canadian women’s national team really didn’t have to deal with adversity. It’s hard to feel panicked when you don’t give up a goal. That changed Friday — and it could be an invaluable building block for a squad that is looking more and more like it might make a serious run at the coming Women’s World Cup later this year. Canada beat the host Chinese 3-2 in the opening game of the Yongchuan Cup, but had to come from a 2-0 deficit to do it. Christine Sinclair’s winning goal in the 94th minute, just seconds before the final whistle was blown, topped Canada’s three-goal comeback effort. She caught the Chinese backline by surprise, running on to a last-ditch long-ball pass from Melissa Tancredi and coolly finished. Sinclair also scored in the 80th minute, while Tancredi scored on a chip halfway through the second half. But this is the key; Canada was down by two goals well into the second half, and still won, China, in the most recent FIFA women’s ranking, was 13th. But that ranking came out in March, 2011 — FIFA is not as diligent updating the women’s standings as it is with the men. So this was a prized scalp. No coach will say this on the record; but plenty of coaches in various sports have spoken off the record to how they secretly hope that, when their team is going good in the leadup to a big tournament or in a long regular season, that it hits a rough patch. If there’s no adversity along the way, then how will the team be prepared for big games down the road? How many times have we seen a team that looks like it has the world beat implode at the first sign of trouble? Need an analogy? Think back to the recent World Junior Hockey Championships. The Russians had fought from behind throughout their elimination games. The Canadians cruised through their elimination games. Canada held a 3-0 lead in the third period of the gold medal game, and self-destructed at the first sign of trouble. The Russians learned from their previous troubles. Canada needed to be tested. And they got that. At the World Cup, the Canadians won’t keep clean sheet after clean sheet. They are going to give up goals. They are going to need to play inspired soccer late in games. Today, China helped the Canadian program immensely.

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