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The next time some wise guy opines about what it means to play like a girl, or play like a woman – yes, you Mike Milbury – he might want to take a gander at Christine Sinclair's mug on June 27, 2011.

When she emerged from the elevator in the hotel hosting the Canadian women's team at the World Cup (and housing three other teams as well – Japan, New Zealand and Canada's opponent Thursday, France – something you surely wouldn't see at a men's World Cup), her first instinct was to duck behind a corner.

Sinclair isn't crazy about being photographed at the best of times, and nearing the end of a crazy 24 hours, with a plastic shield protecting her broken nose and blackening around both eyes, she was even less sure about showing her face to a wider world.

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But that's the price for becoming at least a temporary national sporting icon, which is exactly what happened on Sunday night when Sinclair refused to leave the field after her nose was broken by a German player's reckless elbow in the teams' opening World Cup match at Berlin's Olympiastadion.

Female soccer players, it seems, are pretty darned tough indeed. They don't dive like some of the boys, flopping around in fake agony, and when they're really hurt, they still get up and try to keep going, even against doctor's orders.

"I know my teammates," Sinclair said, ice bag in hand. "We would play through anything to stay on the field. You might not see that in the men's game."

Sinclair, of course, then went on to score Canada's only goal, on a perfectly struck free kick, in what wound up as a heartening 2-1 loss to the two-time defending World Cup champions, who surrendered their first World Cup goal since 2003.

Canada's captain wasn't about to let her new-found fame erase that score line: "Yeah, for losing," she said, sardonically, when it was suggested she was being hailed as a hero back home. But then again, it's not every day that you get to trend on Twitter.

For the first time, Sinclair offered her version of events (after the match, she was hustled directly from the stadium to hospital, where a doctor gave her a shot of freezing, then inserted a piece of metal in her nostril and gave her nose a quick, straightening, extraordinarily painful snap).

"As soon as it happened, I knew it was broken," Sinclair said of the moment Babett Peter's elbow landed. Canadian team doctor Pietro Braina told her she couldn't play on. Sinclair begged to differ, then made eye contact with her coach, Carolina Morace, who offered the universal Italian, palms-up gesture for "What's up?"

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"You can't play with a broken nose," the doctor said.

"Go back in," Morace said.

Thus was made a little bit of Canadian sports mythology. "It was painful," Sinclair said. "But there was so much adrenalin."

On the free kick, she first offered it to midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who normally takes them from that side. When Schmidt declined, Sinclair stepped up and tried to remember all the things her coaches had told her in practice, most notably, not to overhit it. She knew it was sweet the moment she made contact, but she wasn't sure it was going in.

"Their keeper [Nadine Angerer] is so good that she might have got a hand on it," Sinclair said.

Now, once she finally gets a chance to call her folks and a few friends back home, it will be time to put all of that behind her. On Thursday, Canada plays its pivotal match here, against France, ranked one place behind Canada by FIFA, and with three points already in the bank after beating Nigeria 1-0 in its opening game.

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If Canada wins, it will likely go through to the quarter-finals as the second qualifier out of Group A, where it would be spared a match against one of the sport's superpowers and instead would likely draw Japan or England or perhaps even Mexico.

Lose on Thursday, and Canada is finished. Draw, and everyone can start thinking about goal differential.

Clearly, there's no question about Sinclair's participation in that match. On Monday she was fitted for a protective mask, which she'll be wearing on doctor's orders, or at least she will unless her powers of persuasion prevail once again.

"I'm going to try to convince them not to make me wear it," she said.

No, not everything in Canadian sport must be compared to hockey. But yes, that sounds familiar.

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