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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The harmony surrounding Canada has hit a sour note this week and provided an unwanted distraction as the hosts prepare for a showdown with England on Saturday for a place in the women's World Cup semi-finals.
Coach John Herdman and his players have been forced to confront reports of poor team morale and dissention within the ranks following comments made by Christine Latham, a former member of the Canadian national team turned television analyst.
Latham reported prior to Canada's match against Switzerland last Sunday that defender Carmelina Moscato told her morale was low and there were divisions within the squad over Herdman's starting lineup.
Herdman laughed off the report, captain Christine Sinclair maintained that team bonds were strong, and Moscato said her comments had been misrepresented.
"Yeah, it’s terrible. It’s really terrible," Herdman said sarcastically following training on Wednesday.
"The girls are fighting each other. They hate each other. You see all the black eyes and the bloody noses."
Herdman said he would be "amazed" if the Moscato's comments were true.
"The player in question, she is one of our off-field leaders, she has got unbelievable integrity and to be questioning the calm I'd be amazed it there's any truth in that."
Sinclair, Canada's all-time leading scorer who is playing in her fourth World Cup, also denied any rifts and said it was the closest-knit team she had ever played on.
"I think some people are trying to create stories or fish for some stories," she said.
"This is the tightest team I have ever been part of, players and staff. The way we celebrate goals is the way we are on and off the field."
The report is an unwanted distraction for Canada, who will have to their focus back quickly for Saturday's game against England, with a full house of over 50,000 expected at BC Place.
"We are very comfortable where the group is and think you will see that passion and energy from everyone at the weekend," said Herdman.
Editing by Peter Rutherford