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There has been nothing but missteps leading up to the 2015 Women's World Cup, to be played across Canada next summer.

First, they skipped Toronto as a venue in order to placate the Pan-Am Games.

Imagine holding a major sports tournament in France and giving Paris a pass? It's beyond preposterous. It's verging on satiric.

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They decided it was a smarter idea to hold much of it on artificial turf. That sparked a lawsuit and an ongoing war between the game's top foreign players and FIFA suits. It put the Canadian team in the awkward position of pretending to be agnostic about the turf vs. grass debate (they aren't).

There was also the question of expectations.

We think of the women's team as quite good, and they are. Just not at the World Cup.

Canada's won a total of four games in five of these tournaments. It's never beaten a team from Europe. The 2011 iteration was an epochal disaster, driven in large part by an overmatched fantasist for a coach. She'd convinced the team they were going to cakewalk through the best sides in the world. Instead, they were humiliated, finishing dead last.

That wasn't the real Canada. Neither was the team that became the big story of the London Olympics, winning a bronze medal. The real Canada lies somewhere in between.

Over the last year, they've returned to relative mediocrity. The top three teams in the world – the United States, Japan and Germany – have beaten them. They've also lost to Chile (ranked 38th).

Most of this team's casual supporters – and the vast majority of its supporters are casual – have a skewed perspective of what to expect. They checked out after the medal ceremony at Wembley and checked back in on Saturday, during the World Cup draw.

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Turns out they were right to do so. Things just keep toodling along when it matters.

The Canadian team will play its three group games against China, New Zealand and Netherlands. The class of their opponents may be the Dutch, and this is the first time they've ever qualified for a World Cup. It's all a very doable proposition for Canada.

"I think it's a pretty good draw for us. Not great," said Canada's talisman, Christine Sinclair. "Obviously, we don't have any easy games in there. But they're three games we should expect to win."

Sinclair is trying awfully hard not to sound excited. That's the real danger here. The pressure was always going to be considerable. The core of the Canadian team is creeping into its 30s. After this tournament, the program must begin a broad rebuild. This is their last chance together.

If something goes wrong early, that considerable pressure will become crushing.

Those same casual fans will live in the hope of seeing one game – a rematch of the epic 2012 Olympic semi-final between Canada and the United States. As you'll recall, the referee lost her mind and the good guys just lost.

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Sportswriters love war stories and superlatives. For all the drama it threw up on and off the field, that night in Manchester is my answer to the question, 'What's the greatest single game you've ever covered?' Presuming both teams win their groups, that meeting can't happen until the final. The United States has a good deal of work to do before then. They were amongst the losers on Saturday, drawn into an exceedingly tough Group D.

The Americans will play Nigeria (the best team in Africa), Sweden (the best European team not seeded in one of eight groups) and a formidable Australian side. The U.S., Sweden and Nigeria each won all their qualifying games.

America will still be favoured to win the tournament. They were strong in London, and they're stronger now. Finally beating them here, after more than a decade of frustration, would represent the pinnacle of Canadian women's soccer.

But that's projecting a little far into the future.

Let's try to appreciate the present, by beating ourselves up for the ceremony that preceded the draw proper.

The show should be required viewing for all immigrants to this country. As in, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' It was an event so Canadian, it must have been planned by a committee of genetically modified beavers. However, these Super Beavers lacked any improvements to parts of their brains that control good taste and artistic aspiration.

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Early on, it featured Mounties. That's when I knew it was doomed. I don't think Canadians properly appreciate how central the rest of the world believes Mounties are to our culture. Everyone else on Earth thinks most of us are Mounties.

That's on us. Because we can't hold a ribbon cutting at a Mr. Lube without a Mountie lurking in the background.

There were choppy High School Musical-style dance numbers; a wretched owl mascot; patriotic songs (I hadn't realized we had any); speeches in so-so English and absolutely mangled French; long pan shots of lighthouses and lobster pots.

A sample line of dialogue: "The youth of Canada will stand on guard, as we welcome the world to Canada."

If we're welcoming the world, why are we standing on guard? Won't that seem a little hostile – a bunch of Canadian kids eyeballing visitors as they come out of the airport? Will the Mounties be able to control these grade-school vigilantes?


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We're still six months from the opening game – Canada vs. China on June 6 in Edmonton. It was always going to be a lot of fun.

But it wasn't until Saturday – once they'd turned off the music – that it seemed like things were beginning to go the way of the host nation.

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