Canadian Game Day: Women v. Cuba, 7:30 PM PST

(Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
CANADA
vs.
CUBA
FIFA ranking: 7
FIFA ranking: 96
7:30 PM PST, BC Place, Vancouver, BC
Live on Sportsnet Pacific, Ontario, and One. Internet stream at CONCACAF TV (within North America).

My old loathing for writing anything on the weekend has prevented me from preparing any insight about this match before I was actually sitting in the BC Place press box watching Haiti and Costa Rica warm up.

Then again, what insight is needed? Cuba is... I was going to say "the worst team in this tournament" but after seeing the Dominican Republic last night let's go with "the lowest-ranked". They lost only 2-0 to Costa Rica, which doesn't sound too bad, but got awfully lucky. The calibre of Cuba's play on Thursday was so poor that it would have been hysterical if it weren't so dull. Their only saving grace was a smile from the soccer gods and a somnolencent lack of intensity from the Costa Ricans.

Obviously, with a 14-0 win yesterday Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez set a new standard for minnow-thrashing. Cuba should be every inch as bad as the Dominican Republic were and worse than Haiti, which raises hope to see the first Canadian touchdowns in BC Place since the Grey Cup.

(No, I don't really think Canada is going to win by two digits. Those sorts of games are always extreme results and, in their second group stage match, Canada is more likely to ease up; 5-0 is my prediction and would be fine by me. But if John Herdman had a cousin in a Cuban jail or something and really wanted to turn the big guns on them...)

What's to be expected from Cuba? Forward Yezenia Gallardo was their most dangerous player on Thursday, which isn't saying much, but unlike some of the Dominicans she at least knew how to run with the ball. Their midfield was a non-factor. Fullbacks Yoanis Linares and Anay Bombu spent the entire game getting schooled by the Costa Ricans, whose wingers were by no means the most dangerous players you've ever seen. Sophie Schmidt played wide often for Canada on Thursday: if the team lets her go she could really make herself famous today. To say nothing of the one-two Tancredi and Sinclair punch, who out wide will largely do as they please.

But the Cubans played dirty in a vain effort to slow the Costa Ricans down. They'll certainly have their hands full with the quicker, stronger, better Canadians and I've predicting a couple gruesome challenges. Christina Julien is already out for tonight with concussion: the last thing Canada needs is a sprained ankle or a torn knee ligament courtesy a frustrated Cuban who's in over her head. If I were Herdman, I would honestly start every non-core player I could; from a strictly strategic perspective I'd want Sinclair stapled to the bench (yes, I know the Burnaby native would sooner bite her own leg off than sit out a game in Vancouver, but I worry).

Elsewhere in Group A: Haiti - Costa Rica is, while I type this, minutes from kickoff. Haiti showed some promise on Thursday. If they keep their heads up, they should at least give Costa Rica a challenge, but they'll be badly hurt by the loss of talented goalkeeper Ednie Limage. Limage is out for today's game, and probably the tournament; Geralda Saintilus gets the start.

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