The countdown to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup got underway with a familiar sight — Christine Sinclair deftly kicking a ball into a net.
The official logo for the tournament was unveiled Friday at Vancouver’s BC Place, and there was no hiding the excitement of Sinclair and Canada’s players as they contemplated the prospect of playing a global tournament on home turf.
“[The unveiling ceremony] makes it real now that it’s actually happening,” said Sinclair, the Canadian women’s team’s captain who scored 23 international goals in 22 games this year.
Vancouver will host the 24-team tournament along with Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa and Moncton, N.B. Similar ceremonies were held in those cities Friday.
The logo unveiling coincided with a Canadian team evaluation camp that is being held in Vancouver until Dec. 20.
Sinclair said Canada’s historic bronze-medal victory at the 2012 Summer Olympics gave the team the confidence that it can excel on the world stage. Canada is looking to make amends for a 2011 World Cup in Germany where it went winless.
“Hopefully, a lot of us [Olympic team veterans] will still be around and we can help the young ones,” said Sinclair, 29.
Herdman said his club has undergone a “mindset shift” as a result of its Olympic success, and indicated the expectations will be high.
“Prior to London, the team hadn’t crossed the line before,” said Herdman. “They hadn’t even got past the quarter finals of these (large international) events. [After] getting onto the [Olympic] podium, that Canada can, the mindset’s there,” he said.
“There’s going to be a group of players here will be with the team, that experienced London, and they’ll bring that mindset with them. Listen, when you get down to these events, a lot of it comes down to people’s mindsets and I think we’ll be a different group.”
Herdman, who took over a Canadian squad that was reeling after its 2011 World Cup disappointment led it to an Olympic bronze, was feeling as emotional as his players.
“It’s starting now,” he said. “It’s coming to Canada, and I’m going to be a big part of that. So [I have] a little bit of excitement and a little bit of nerves. But just seeing the energy around the kids today who were part of this, this is going to be massive — huge.”
Herdman was also impressed with the tournament logo that incorporates a maple leaf and uses a mixture of red, blue green and yellow to evoke symbols of oceans, mountains and wheat. The World Cup championship trophy is also part of the design.
“It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” he said. “A bit of every part of Canada in there, you know? Seeing the ice caps, that’s pretty relevant today — because it’s freezing.”
Herdman got goose bumps from the typically cold BC Place building and the realization that the ceremony begins preparations for the World Cup.
“It makes you realize that, hey, we’re going to invest (three) years of our lives,” he said. “That’s a big investment for anyone to commit — day in, day out — to dream about, to play the final somewhere in Canada to win that World Cup.”
Soccer Canada is billing the tournament as the first Canadian coast-to-coast event. Tournament CEO Peter Montopoli said Canada is “really ready” to host such a large global sporting event, as demonstrated by the successful under-20 men’s world championships that the country staged in 2007.
“This country really galvanizes in all these international events, and I really expect that all of our games will be sold out, because Canadians really support not only the game of football but ... this [women’s] team,” said Montopoli.
The 2015 World Cup’s field will be expanded to 24 from 16 teams. Speaking in a video recording, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the additional teams will give a greater international dimension to the tournament.
Canada striker Melissa Tancredi said the expanded tourney will let people see “a lot of different types of talent” that have not been seen before. The 30-year-old Edmonton native is also looking forward to seeing how Canada’s talent develops between now and 2015.
Changes to the Canadian team appear inevitable as players age and Herdman seeks to take the club to a higher level.
“It’s going to be very exciting to see what we turn out to be in three years,” said Tancredi.
Note: Sinclair said she intends to play in the new women’s U.S. pro league that is slated to start up in 2013. But Tancredi will wait a year, because she plans to finish her chiropractic studies.