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

How much celebrating will Christine Sinclair and company be doing tonight? (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
CANADA
vs.
MEXICO
FIFA ranking: 7
FIFA ranking: 21
7:30 PM PST, BC Place, Vancouver, BC
Live on Sportsnet Pacific, Ontario, and One. Internet stream at CONCACAF TV (within North America).

I know we're Canadian fans, but even for us the paranoia over this semi-final is a bit much.

Mexico's playing good soccer! Did you see all the fans they had at BC Place; we're going to be drowned out! And Canada can only get goals through Christine Sinclair! Oh nooooo! (stands on bow of sinking ship singing "Nearer My God to Thee")

Mexico is a good team. I don't dare take them lightly. Their offense has become more versatile than the bad old days of "get it to Maribel Dominguez and pray nobody notices", while their defense has improved to arguably be the second-best in CONCACAF, with 20-year-old Alina Garciamendez out of Stanford emerging as a star. They certainly had a better World Cup than we did, although in an easier group.

On the other hand, Mexico still loses to countries Canada generally beats: Brazil twice in the most recent Pan-American Games, a World Cup draw to England that they really should have lost, and another draw to Trinidad and Tobago of all teams: a side so bad the Dominican Republic knocked them off to get into Olympic qualifying. They are good but they are still not quite on Canada's tier: there's a chance of springing an upset because this is soccer and anything can happen, but Canada should win on home soil seven times out of ten.

And the "6,000" Mexican fans that were packed into BC Place on Tuesday to cheer on the Mexicans against the United States? First, there weren't really 6,000 Mexicans there. Second, even if there were 6,000 Mexicans there for a critical match against their mortal rivals, that wouldn't match up to the smallest pro-Canadian crowd of the three games so far. And third, even if the Mexicans did somehow outnumber the good guys, I'd not be intimidated by their scattered shouting "México! México!" against organized, concentrated Voyageurs chanting their opinion on a team of Kaylyn Kyles (they're for it).

I'm honestly not sure Canada has ever hosted Mexico in a senior international without the Mexican fans outnumbering and outshouting the Canadians, but the Canadian crowd should come out on top tonight. I'm betting on both Canada and the Canadian crowd; I guess all this soccer is making me insane.

It seems certain the crowd tonight will exceed all recent national team games in Canada. A well-publicized GroupOn quickly sold out, and the western half of BC Place's lower bowl has been sold and very nearly filled. The crowd could be larger than BC Place's standard capacity for Vancouver Whitecaps games at 21,500.

The game itself should offer cause for celebration. Canada does well against Mexico, having lost once in all their history. Even in the famous 2010 Gold Cup when Mexico knocked off the Americans, Canada polished off the hometown heroes 1-0 in a final game that could have gone much worse for Mexico.

The Mexicans don't have a player to match the calibre of Christine Sinclair (although neither does any country in the world but Brazil, Germany, and the United States). Maribel Dominguez is one of the great players in women's soccer history, having been on her way to a professional men's contract in the Mexican Promotion League until governing bodies interfered, and deserves to stand on that Charmaine Hooper level of undeniably great players. But she's getting a little long in the tooth and wasn't quite at Sinclair's level even in her prime. The Mexican attacking depth, particularly in midfield, is better than it used to be but I'd take Tancredi, Schmidt, and Kyle over any secondary trio Mexico can throw at us.

Mexico's defense is the strength of their team: battling, tenacious, and masters of the borderline-clean challenge. They're not much on the ball but they'll work like mad dogs to win it. They managed to challenge the American attackers at times, which is higher praise than I think I'm making this sound. However, they struggled badly on set pieces (all three of Carli Lloyd's goals came on set pieces and the closest chances Guatemala got were off corners). The Mexican defenders are relatively small, meaning that Sinclair and Tancredi should be able to challenge them. Then again, Canada's own ineptitude on attacking set pieces has been a minor sub-plot of this tournament.

We ought to win. Will we?

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