Lang oozes Canuck pride
© Foto-net

Still just 21, Canada's foraging Kara Lang is no blushing rookie on the international stage. With 23 goals in 63 caps, she is a fearsome presence in the attacking midfield hole and gives the North Americans a bite and sense of purpose as they get set to take part in their first Women's Olympic Football Tournament.

"It's great that everyone in the team is playing in their first Olympics together," she told in Tianjin. "We're all buzzing. We visited the Olympic village in Beijing when we arrived and we're hoping to get back there for the medal rounds."

First up for the Canadians, ranked ninth in the world, is a date with the proverbial whipping girls of the women's game: Argentina. Even so, Lang - one of five in the team who played in the inaugural final of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in 2002 - is wary of getting overconfident.

"We go into every game hoping to win," remarked Canada's fourth all-time top scorer. "We're not really concerned about Argentina, or the name of any team we play, we just want to go out and get the three points."

Canada's playing style is about as direct and honest as Lang's manner of speaking. "Our philosophy can really be summed up with the words ‘fast, forward and aggressive.' That's the way we like to play and we also like to go hard into tackles and impose ourselves physically."

One of the physically larger sides in the competition, the Canadians have another powerful presence up front in the form of Christine Sinclair. Teammates from their heady days in the country's youth ranks, the pair seem a perfect one-two punch. With Sinclair, top all time Canadian scorer with an astonishing 93 goals in 121 caps, the main scoring threat and Lang offering support and a tough-tackling presence, the duo form a firm backbone in the team.

Team dream
Lang, though, is quick to point out that only chemistry and a total team approach can make a winning formula. "So many of us have played together for so long now that we can read each other's minds," she chuckled. "We're a very close-knit group and we're out their always fighting for each other and our country."

Far from demurring in the face of their first-ever Olympic voyage, Lang and co are endearingly truculent as they take aim at a medal. "We all have the goal of being on the podium, and that's the only thing we're thinking about," she concluded, dismissing claims that a kncockout round appearance might be enough for Even Pellerud's squad.

And the prospect of meeting up with hot rivals the USA - who hold sway in an increasingly competitive regional squabble - has Lang chomping at the bit. "We're getting closer and closer to them (USA) and the next game might just be the one for us. It would be great to meet them in the knockout rounds."

Before that particular dream comes true, it's Argentina on 6 August in Tianjin before two more Group E contests against hosts China and Sweden.