Canadian spirit lifts Lang

Drained, disappointed but far from despondent, Canada's players were left to contemplate an uncertain future at China 2007 as they trudged wearily out of the Hangzhou Dragon Stadium on Wednesday night.

Yet for all that the opening Group C results combined to leave Norway and Australia with an early stranglehold on the section, Kara Lang believes the enduring optimism she shares with her team-mates is based on solid foundations. Though still just 20, Lang is certainly no naïve youngster. The powerful striker has been a fixture in Even Pellerud's squad ever since making her senior debut at the record-breaking age of 15, and she also speaks from big-tournament experience, having played in all six of the Canucks' matches at USA 2003.

Indeed, it is her memory of what it took to fire Pellerud's side to the semi-finals four years ago that strengthens her belief that Canada's campaign can still be salvaged, with the team's 'family' bonds key to reversing their fortunes. "We're continuing to stay positive because this World Cup is not over for us by any means," she told " We have so much still to play for. Our goal when we came here was to qualify and that's not changed.

"Personally, it's an honour just to be here, I'm loving it. It's always a privilege to be part of this team, whatever happens; this group of girls we have here really is like a family to me. I'm so glad to be able to experience a tournament like this with them. We've been in residency as a squad since January, earlier in some cases, so we've become unbelievably close and tight-knit as a group. Hopefully that spirit can be the thing that turns it around for us here in the next two games. In previous years, I think that togetherness has been something we've perhaps lacked at times but we couldn't be stronger in that respect now. I just hope it can maybe give us an edge."

Fatigue a cause for concern
It was certainly evident that, even as fatigue set in and their half-time lead began to crumble, the Canadians remained united in their ultimately futile attempts to repel their energetic Norwegian opponents. That they failed, says Lang, was certainly not attributable to any lack of effort.

"We really couldn't have given any more," she said. "I think anyone watching that game would have seen that every Canada player out there fought really hard for the team, and there was no finger-pointing in the dressing room whatsoever. The ones I feel most sorry for are our defence because they were just phenomenal. I wish they hadn't been under such pressure but in the second half Norway just kept coming back at us. It felt like we couldn't get out of our own half at times.

"In the end, the defenders haven't got the reward for their efforts but I don't think anyone can question the work ethic of this team. There are a lot of tired legs now, that's for sure. The result could have been a lot better, of course, but if we keep working as hard as we did yesterday the results will come."

Lang may have been keen to accentuate the positive, but she did acknowledge one significant cause for concern: the manner of the heavy-legged Canadians' second-half collapse. Her coach spoke after the match of his unease that signs of fatigue had been evident from late in the first half, and the striker conceded that this was not the first time the team had faded so quickly.

She said: "I can't put my finger on exactly what went wrong but we all knew there had been a massive shift after the break. I would say first of all that Norway deserve a lot of credit for that but I would have to admit that it's been a bit of a weakness of ours - we just don't seem to come out as hard in the second half. That's something we'll need to look at and, if we can, try to address before playing Ghana on Saturday." With both sides aware that another defeat will all but seal their FIFA Women's World Cup fate, the stakes could not be any higher.