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EDMONTON — Coach John Herdman says his Canada team is feeling no nerves ahead of Saturday’s Women’s World Cup opener against China.

“No, they’re really chilled out,” he said after practice Thursday. “I think just being at home’s been nice for them. I think they’re less nervous now because they’re just in familiar surroundings.

“Because we’ve done this, Winnipeg last year, Hamilton, big crowds, they’re actually looking forward to it. I haven’t seen those nerves yet.”

Herdman and his management team have also worked with the players to control emotions and rid themselves of fear. That included dealing with not being picked to start, with friends and family in the stands.

“The players have talked about that. Yeah, I think they’re ready,” said Herdman.

What started as a sunny afternoon with intermittent showers turned ugly with the arrival of a huge black cloud as the team worked out at the Edmonton Minor Soccer Complex. High winds whipped the canvas on the fence that surrounded the practice field while the tops of nearby tree bent.

But the bad weather subsided as quickly as it came and the sunshine returned.

Midfielder Diana Matheson (foot) and defenders Marie-Eve Nault (calf) and Rhian Wilkinson (hamstring) worked out separately from the rest of the team during the 15-minute portion of practice reporters were allowed to watch.

“The goal is to get them back in this tournament,” said Herdman. “That’s why we’ve kept them in the squad. Wilkinson, she’ll be back a bit quicker than Matheson. And Matheson, we’ve got a return-to-play plan hopefully (for the) last game of the first round. If not we’re into the knockout (rounds) and that’s where we expect Diana to come back.”

The defensive injuries have forced Herdman to employ forward Josee Belanger at right fullback. She won kudos for her performance in a 1-0 win over England in Hamilton last Friday.


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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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