Canada takes deep breath, steps into World Cup spotlight

Thu Jun 4, 2015 7:02pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

EDMONTON (Reuters) - While the wider soccer world continued to convulse over revelations of FIFA bribery and corruption, Canada took a deep breath on Thursday and prepared for their moment in the Women's World Cup spotlight.

Their fellow members of Group A -- China, New Zealand and Netherlands -- who will share opening day honors on Saturday, have not been able to escape questions as the media digs for answers behind a scandal that has triggered multiple arrests and investigations of high-ranking soccer officials.

But players and coaches at the Women's World Cup have provided no insight while side-stepping the controversy in the same way they might avoid a tackle.

"There is no attention being put on that any more, it's all about game day," Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt told Reuters.

"The hype after the first 24, 48 hours of all that has settled down and we're able to just focus on the game and task at hand. In this environment, we are now kind of shielded from all that."

Ensconced in the Alberta capital that sits on the edge of the oil sands, there is no noticeable outrage in the city known as the "Gateway to the North" about the dark forces ripping away at soccer, known by many as the 'beautiful game'.

Here the more pressing questions are economic ones centered on the oil stands and the nose-diving price of crude.

The tournament will open with Canada facing China in front of an expected sellout crowd of more than 50,000 at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday and end on July 5 in Vancouver with another capacity crowd for the championship match.   Continued...