With just hours to go until kick-off in the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Germany, the players are beginning to feel the first hint of nerves, and the sense of anticipation among the fans is reaching fever pitch prior to the biggest football event of the year.
Two days ahead of the Opening Match between the hosts and Canada, FIFA launched the “Live Your Goals" campaign, aimed at encouraging girls and women to take up the game. Germany's Kim Kulig and Christine Sinclair of Canada have joined forces as the figureheads for the campaign.
“Taking part in a terrific campaign like this is an honour for me. It's important we address young girls in particular, reminding them you should never lose sight of your goals and dreams. Women's football is so widely appreciated and respected nowadays, we can shout out our message loud and clear,” Kulig declared.
Sinclair also expressed delight at being part of the campaign. “As an experienced player, you realise that our sport is more than just a game, and you want to start leaving behind a long-lasting impression. Contributing to the effort of developing women’s football is a fantastic opportunity.”
Sinclair is the undisputed superstar in the current Canada women's national team. The 28-year-old has an extraordinary 116-goal haul in her 159 international appearances. She would be only too delighted to score against Germany on Sunday, but that would entail forcing the ball past keeper Nadine Angerer, who kept a clean sheet all the way through the previous edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in China. “That would be great," she laughed, “but I'm not spending a lot of time worrying about it. The big thing in our opening match against Germany is teamwork."
The pre-match stats are weighted heavily in favour of the home team. Canada and the hosts have met on nine occasions, with the Germans winning the lot. Coach Silvia Neid’s team won 5-0 the last time the sides met on 15 September 2010, although much has changed in the Canada set-up since then.
“Yes, there have been changes throughout the team. The game against Germany was a wake-up call for us. Since then, we've only lost to USA and Sweden. We won our qualifying tournament, and the Cyprus Cup too. That's really boosted our confidence, which was something we lacked in the past. And I hope we’ll ride this wave of confidence into the opening match," Sinclair told FIFA.com.
One for the history books
The likeable Canadian is aware of her vital leadership role within the team. “I'm definitely feeling the pressure, but most of it comes from myself. I want to give it my best shot and lead my team well. But if I've learned anything from the past, it's to let go, do your best, and ignore the pressure and the media affecting you from outside. You just have to focus on the match."
The player’s concentration is duly fixed 100 per cent on the Berlin Olympic Stadium clash with Germany. “The opening match will be one of those games where you look back in ten to 15 years and think: ‘That was unbelievable, and I was there!’ On the one hand I'll be nervous and tense, but on the other hand I'll be feeling a certain disbelief that the women's game has come so far. 75,000 people have showed up to watch us play? That's unbelievable!"
There are still a few hours to go until that moment, and the Canadians are busy with their final preparations for the big game. At the moment, Sinclair remains relaxed. “I don't have butterflies in my stomach – not yet at least. But when I step out onto the stadium pitch for training tomorrow, I'm sure it'll start. For now, I'm still not tense."