ALSO ON SLAM!
Friday, June 30, 2000
Canadians look forward to Gold Cup semifinal
Even Pellerud's instincts were spot-on in early June on the eve of Canada's game against China at the Pacific Cup in Australia.
"We have the opinion it's possible to beat them," the Norwegian native said.
He was right. Canada won the next day, defeating the World Cup runners-up 5-3 on penalties after the teams finished the game tied 2-2.
Well Pellerud is feeling good again, this time going into tonight's game (CTV Sportsnet, 8 p.m. EDT) against the World Cup champion Americans in Louisville, Ky., in the semifinal of the women's Gold Cup.
"I'm very confident," he said Friday from Kentucky. "I think the team is in great shape. The players are very confident -- not too confident but they feel confident. I think they are convinced we can beat them.
"I'm preparing our game plan. It has to be perfect to beat them and we also have to execute it more or less perfectly because they are the best team in the world."
A win would be sensational. Canada is 1-21-0 against the Americans and has been outscored 92-11 in the process.
The Americans are 15-3-3 this year and have outscored their opponents 83-11 while winning the Australia Cup, Algarve Cup, Nike U.S. Women's Cup and Pacific Cup.
The Americans lost 1-0 to China at the Pacific Cup, but rallied the next game to thump Canada 9-1. Since the loss to the Chinese, the Americans are 6-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 38-2.
The Canadian women are 9-5 under Pellerud, a polished veteran coach who won the World Cup with Norway five years ago.
Because the Americans played their first-round Gold Cup games in different cities, Pellerud has only seen the matches on tape.
"It's the same old team, although they're now playing a flat back four (in defence) and they never did that before," Pellerud said. "They have made some mistakes in the flat back four but they have been rescued by a very good goalkeeper.
"They have some problems there that we will try to punish."
Canada opened the Gold Cup with a 4-3 win over Mexico before losing 3-2 to China and routing Guatemala 12-0.
The Canadians have been bolstered by the return from injury of Charmaine Hooper, Canada's all-time leading scorer, although starters Sharolta Nonen and Isabelle Harvey were both unavailable for the tournament.
Pellerud points to the China game with pride, despite the result.
"That was a very good game. A poor first 20 minutes, we gave up two goals, and after that it was a very even game. We had eight scoring chances and China had eight scoring chances. ... Eight scoring chances against China is amazing."
Especially when the average age of the Canadian team in the second half was 21 -- and that included the 32-year-old Hooper.
"And a big part of the second half we dominated," Pellerud noted. "That was one of our best halves ever."
The Americans won their pool at the tournament on a coin flip with Brazil after both teams finished at 2-0-1 with 19 goals for and none against.
Pellerud's style of play is completely different from that of Holger Osieck, his counterpart with the Canadian men.
Pellerud uses a 4-3-3 formation while Osieck plays 3-5-2, although both will use a 4-4-2 at times.
Osieck wants his team to play a possession game, spraying the ball around the field, while Pellerud wants his players to attack, testing the opposition with slashing balls in a bid to free up a talented set of strikers that includes Hooper, teenage sensation Christine Sinclair, Christine Latham and veteran Silvana Burtini.
Pellerud's players can look like they are misfiring when they pass. His gambling style calls for them to take chances.
"To penetrate, you have to take risks with the ball on and off the ball. And when you take risks, yes, you give the ball away a lot."