The Canadian women's national team learned its opponents in the London Olympics on Tuesday. John Herdman's side drew Japan, Sweden, and South Africa.The road to glory at London has been revealed for Canada's national women's team.
John Herdman's side will open the Olympic tournament with a match against reigning world champion Japan on July 25. Canada will face South Africa three days later, before ending the group stage versus Sweden on July 31.
Herdman said the Sweden game will likely make or break Canada's hopes of advancing to the knockout phase.
"They're very close in terms of how we play, our styles are very similar. We have a couple of key players like they do that can win matches for you," the coach told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday. "I think that's going to be a real game breaker. I think that's the tournament-breaker for us, the game against Sweden becomes the real do-or-die game."
Canada will be in tough contest against Japan, and Herdman has conceded that the world champion is a "special" side.
"They're in a bit of a league of they're own," Herdman said of the Japanese team. "They're playing a style of football that I'm sure has taken women's football to another level."
It's because of Japan's recent form that Herdman says the Canadians have to make sure that they're at their best against the Swedes.
"Against Tier 2 teams - those teams ranked outside of the top five or six - we can more than compete, we can consistently win against [Tier 2] teams and also play quite a good brand of football," Herdman explained.
"But up against what we call Tier 1 teams - the USA's, the Swedens, the French - the last three big tests we've had against those teams we found it really difficult to break them down. We're very clear, if we want to get on the podium, we have to be a lot more decisive with our possession, and in certain parts of the pitch we need to be able to break down that zonal block that will be put down in front of us by those teams."
Despite the coach's frank assessment of his teams recent successes against teams that it'll have to beat in order to chalenge for a medal this summer, he still feels that Canada has what it takes to be competitive.
"We have to be able to beat these teams," Herdman said. "And on our day, with the right mindset, and if we can tactically get it right and the players have put in the right preparation over these three months, then I think we have a chance."