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Canada and Great Britain battle in soccer quarters on TSN

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CTVOlympics.ca
8/3/2012 12:45:27 PM
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Canada will resume its chase for a medal in women's soccer on Friday when they face Great Britain in the quarter-finals at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Watch live on TSN and CTVOlympics.ca at 2:30pm et/11:30am pt.

In front of what is expected to be both a packed and partisan crowd at City of Coventry Stadium in Coventry, England, Canada will attempt to advance farther in this tournament than they did when they made their debut at the Beijing 2008 Games and were eliminated in the quarters by the eventual champion United States.

Canadian captain Christine Sinclair is not concerned about the prospect of playing in front of a full house, cheering against her team.

"Most of the people will support Great Britain,” said Sinclair. “They will feel at home and will get that energy from the crowd, it will be like an extra player on the pitch. But it is our job as well to avoid the crowd involvement at the beginning of the match and do our best."

"It is always great to play in that kind of atmosphere, we are very excited,” said Sinclair. “We need to match the intensity and we will be fine."

The Canadian side advanced into the knockout stages after a spirited draw with Sweden in their final game of the opening round, where they fell behind conceding two early goals. 

Tournament leading scorer, Canadian striker Melissa Tancredi scored her third and fourth goals at London 2012 to earn a 2-2 draw with Sweden and gain the point that secured advancement.The Ancaster, Ontario native believes the support from her home country will help push the team forward.

"I think we have the whole country behind us for once,” said Tancredi. “We have been under the radar here and there but everyone is watching now, pushing us to get towards our goal, which is the gold medal round."

"We're two games away from that and we just need to push a little harder in this because it is an elimination game, (we need to) obviously give it our all."

She also believes that the atmosphere created by a packed stadium in Coventry will be fuel to the fire for her and the rest of the Canadian team.

"I think a sell-out crowd is awesome, you live for that stuff as an athlete,” said Tancredi.  “It doesn't matter who they are cheering for, as long as they are not heckling us too bad."

For Canada to find a way past Great Britain they will need another all-star performance from captain Sinclair, they will also need players like Tancredi to continue to produce and even take the spotlight if the Burnaby, BC native isn't able to take control of the game.

Supporting their best player is something Tancredi sees as part of the task for her and the rest of the squad.

"The spotlight is always on her and it is our job as a team to rise and do our own part to help her out,” said Tancredi. “We have come out as a one-dimensional team in the past but now we have all cylinders firing and it is kind of hard to stop us."

Defensively, Canada struggled through injuries in the group stage that even forced them to make changes to their pre-tournament roster.  One of the constants in the backline has been Lauren Sesselmann, who will once again be charged with shutting down the offensive runs of Canada's opponents.

“I have had the opportunity to play against a few of them in the WPS (Women's Professional Soccer League) in the United States so it is going to be a fun game to play against some people I know,” said Sesselmann. “I am really looking forward to it."

Canada qualified for the knockout stage as one of the two best third place teams after finishing behind both Sweden and Japan in Group F play.  Great Britain on the other hand, stormed into the quarter-finals with a huge win over Brazil to claim first place in Group E without giving up a single goal.

Great Britain's leading scorer Stephanie Houghton, who is tied for second overall at London 2012 with American Abby Wambach with three, believes it's been the help of the rest of the squad that has allowed her to shine offensively.

"I don't know where the goals are coming from,” said Houghton a defender for Great Britain. “You tell me. I'm as surprised as anyone. But it's all about the team performance, that's the most important thing. We have got nine points out of nine and that's a statistic that counts."

The Durham, England native has been given the green light to attack at all times by Great Britain head coach Hope Powell.

"If the ball is on my side of the pitch Hope wants me to get forward and support the winger,” said Houghton. “Two of the three goals have come from set pieces, but I do like to get forward and get into the penalty box whenever I can."

Her skills are such that Canadian head coach John Herdman has compared Houghton to Brazilian superstar Danny Alves, something the Great Britain defender finds flattering.

“Really. Did he say that? That's an amazing compliment. I would like to thank him for that,” said Houghton. “Danny is a massive player for Barcelona who gets up and down the pitch. I just want to make sure I perform well (Friday) and the team does well also."

British keeper Karen Bardsley believes that her team's game-plan will be enough to shutdown Canada's two prolific scoring superstars.

“There is always going to be a target player that a team has or someone that the ball seems to go through a bit more often," said Bardsley.  "We have identified those sorts of players and we have studied some patterns of play and basically just tried to prepare as best we can."

The winner of this quarter-final matchup will face the winner of the United States vs. New Zealand match in the semi-final round.

Sinclair and Tancredi  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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