Player to Watch: Christine Sinclair
© AFP

If she keeps up with her current pace, or anywhere near it, Christine Sinclair will most likely become Canada's all-time top scorer before blowing out the candles at her 26th birthday party. Still only 23, the former University of Portland standout has 56 goals from just 88 caps, trailing behind only legendary veteran Charmaine Hooper, who bagged 71 goals in 131 games.

Earning her first senior international call-up in 2000 while breaking every conceivable scoring record and laying hands on the most prestigious individual awards at the University of Oregon in the USA, Sinclair - now Canada's experienced captain - truly made her impact on the world stage at the first instalment of the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship (now the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship).

Just over a month on from the excitement of the men's quadrennial showpiece in Korea/Japan in the summer of 2002, few were expecting much of a buzz from the first women's teen tournament up in ice hockey-obsessed Canada. However, the goals of Sinclair (crowned top scorer with ten and best player of the tournament) led the hosts to the final (where they lost in extra time to the USA) and brought in record attendances, media interest and overall buzz.

The very next year, she lined up for her first FIFA Women's World Cup in the USA and her three goals in five games helped Canada to the semi-finals (where they eventually lost out to Sweden). This time around she is hoping for even more. An unlikely scorer - not blessed with bags of pace or tremendous leaping ability - Sinclair might just be the female answer to former Germany ace Gerd Muller. Her ability to score goals is nothing short of uncanny and her instincts in front of the net purely lethal.

Twice in the running for FIFA Women's World Player of the Year honours and Canadian Women's Player of the Year two years running, Sinclair is hoping for a world title in China after losing out to the USA in the finals of the 2007 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup and the Peace Queen Cup in Korea Republic.

"To represent your country on a world stage is just huge," Sinclair remarked after acting as one of the luminaries pulling balls from bowls at the gala Final Draw for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. "I think we're doing it well with the residency camp. I think at the last World Cup we were a very young team - we probably had an average age of 22 or 23. So to do as well as we did in the World Cup I think was very important."

Coming of age
With a decidedly young team in the USA in 2003, Sinclair and the rest of the Canucks are hoping they are reaching their climax at just the right time ahead of China 2007. And edging out the USA, who beat them by one-goal margins in both the Gold Cup and the Peace Queen Cup, is always on Sinclair's mind.

"Those two games (against the US) went to overtime - one was 30 seconds away from a shootout - so we're doing a lot better against them now. We're improving and at this residency camp, I think the goal of it is instead of losing by one, trying to get on the other side of that result."

Elaborating on the border rivalry, Sinclair went on to say: "We play them so often, it just breeds rivalry. We hate losing to the US and they hate losing to us. I love playing against them."

Head coach Even Pellerud and Sinclair will not have to worry about their neighbours to the south right off the bat in China, but they will have to cope with one of the toughest groups at the finals. After last weekend's official draw in Wuhan, the Canadians found themselves up against stiff competition in Group C. Norway, Australia and African dark horses Ghana will stand between the North Americans and a spot in the knockout rounds.

Pellerud chose to focus on the positives in his squad - Sinclair included - after learning his team's fate. "We have a core group of players who are returning from the 2003 World Cup," said Pellerud. "We will count on their experience during the tournament, because they know what to expect in this type of competition. Our first big goal will be to get through the group stages."