Blatter - "Football fever is here"
In one last press conference before the kick-off of the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship final, FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter allowed his joy over the inaugural tournament's categorical, mind-boggling success to pour forth. "There are no more tickets available for the final," commented the most important man in world football, adding an emphatic "Mama mia!"
Judging by his jovial mood, Blatter, accompanied on the dais by CONCACAF chief Jack Warner, CSA president Alan Sharpe, Minister of Health and LOC honourary chair Anne McLellan and Secretary of State for Amateur Sport Paul Devillers, couldn't be more pleased with the competition's success on the eve of the final, or more pleasantly surprised.
"We at FIFA went ahead and developed the Championship, in theory, with some doubts about Canada not being a "football country." But with its phenomenal team, enthusiasm and organization, the nation has gone about making this tournament an amazing, exceptional success on every level."
Blatter rhetorically quipped, "what has happened in this country?" while confirming in the future the tournament will take place at regular two-year intervals, and also announcing the official acceptance of Canada's bid to host the 2007 Women's World Cup fast on the heels of the youth tournament's multi-layered success.
"The response of the public has been extraordinary, the technical and tactical level of the football has been astonishing, and the elegant women's game will surely reach its pinnacle at what promises to be a phenomenal final tomorrow," added FIFA's top dog in genuine anticipation of a mouth-watering all-CONCACAF final from a sold-out Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
CONCACAF region president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago was quick to point to the final between hosts Canada and pre-tournament favourites the United States as a reiteration of the region's overall dominance in the women's game.
"I am at a loss for words in terms of the miracle we have witnessed here in Canada, and the final between the United States and Canada only lends credence to the primacy of CONCACAF in leading women's football to greater heights."
Sunday's final in Edmonton threatens to burst the previous record for football attendance in the Great White North. The record stands at 54,000 for Brazil's final pre-World Cup match on their way to a fourth title at USA '94. Projections for Sunday are expected to approach the stadium's capacity for what many in the nation have dubbed a "clash of the Titans."
The United States, long the forerunners of women's international football, have absolutely demolished their opponents thus far with an astonishing 25 goals scored, and only two conceded. And though the US has beaten Team Canada all three times the two neighbors have met, including an 11:0 shellacking in July, everyone knows the final will be a brittle battle in the truest sense.
""We just have to go out there and give our best performance," remarked Canadian "keeper Erin McLeod. "It's going to be very different match on Sunday as compared to our previous meetings."
One thing is sure to be different: the presence of the tournament's finest finisher in Christine Sinclair. The US have never played Team Canada with Sinclair loitering with cruel intent up front.
"The US is a great team," commented Canadian Clare Rustad, adding "but we have yet to play them with our full squad."
US boss, and World Cup winner in her playing days, Tracey Leone, could hardly contain her excitement in the final run-up. "I think it will be monumental. It will prove a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the stadium, the spectators, the setting... it will be an amazing day."
Whichever way the result falls, Sunday 1 September is bound to be an unequivocally amazing day, one that will surely confirm football's purest qualities as extolled by FIFA President Blatter: "passion, emotion and drama."