Veteran skipper Christine Sinclair warned on Thursday that Olympic champions Canada can beat anyone at the Women’s World Cup, saying: “This team is full of rock stars.”
Ranked seventh, they face a potentially tricky opening clash against Nigeria on Friday in Melbourne in a formidable Group B.
They will also meet co-hosts Australia and debutants Ireland in their bid to make the knockout rounds.
Sinclair, the all-time leading scorer in international football and at her sixth World Cup, warned against underestimating her side.
“We were overlooked heading into the Tokyo Olympics and showed what we can do,” said the 40-year-old forward, who has scored an incredible 190 goals in 323 appearances for her country.
“We can beat any team in the world. It’s contagious (winning), you want to do it again and it’s just motivated us to prove to the world what we can do again.”
Canada have qualified for every World Cup except the first in 1991, with a fourth-placed finish in 2003 the highlight so far. They were knocked out in the round of 16 in France four years ago.
They enter the tournament hosted by Australia and New Zealand after a disrupted build-up that saw them threaten to strike over pay, funding and contractual issues.
Injuries have also dogged them. Striker Janine Beckie, with 36 goals in her 101 appearances, is absent after surgery on a knee problem.
Veteran midfielder Desiree Scott and rising star Jade Rose are also missing.
Despite the absentees Sinclair said: “This team is full of rock stars, full of class.”
Like Canada, Nigeria have also been embroiled in controversy in the build-up.
The team clashed with their national federation over bonuses and had threatened to boycott their opening game.
Coach Randy Waldrum refused to comment at their pre-match press conference, but Sevilla striker Toni Payne, sitting next to him, replied “No” when asked if the boycott threat still stood.
“I think everyone should expect to see a super-united team, a team that is extremely strong and talented and ready to put up their best performance,” she said, while admitting they were slightly intimidated by Canada.
“Yeah, of course, when you’re playing a team who wins championships it can be a little intimidating.
“But tomorrow our team has all the confidence that we will beat them.”
The two sides have played each other twice before at World Cups.
In 1995 they drew 3-3 while Nigeria won the second match 16 years later 1-0.
Like Canada, the Super Falcons have plenty of World Cup pedigree, appearing at every tournament since its inception.
They also boast a 40-year-old in her sixth World Cup, like Sinclair, in centre-back and captain Onome Ebi.
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