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Women’s soccer team faces challenges if they hope to convert Olympic medal into World Cup success

Jim Morris
Eh Game

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Christine Sinclair with her bronze medal.

With success comes expectations, something the Canadian women's soccer team will experience as Canada prepares to host the 2015 women's World Cup.

The bronze medal the Canadian women won at the London Olympics is redemption for years of near misses and underachievements experienced by the women's program. The bar has been set for the World Cup. The team will want to use the Olympic success as a launch pad, not a high water mark.

[Related: Christine Sinclair is still bitter, still standing by her words]

"Canada's hosting the next World Cup,'' striker Christine Sinclair told reporters after her team's win. "With this medal the expectations are going to be on us and I can't wait.''

A huge positive for the Canadian team is coach John Herdman is under contract through the World Cup. Herdman has iced the team's bruised ego and mended its confidence after the disaster of the 2011 World Cup in Germany. He has introduced an offensive style the women like playing and suits the team's talents.

One of the challenges Herdman faces is injecting new players onto the team without disrupting the chemistry that won the bronze medal. By 2015 Canada could have one of the oldest teams at the tournament. Sinclair and goalkeeper Erin McLeod are both 29. Diana Matheson, who scored the dramatic goal in the 1-0 win over France, is 28. Striker Melissa Tancredi, fondly called Tank by her teammates, is 30.

[Photos: Canada wins soccer bronze]

Herdman and his staff will have to groom the young talent on the under-20 team. There could be some difficult decisions made when selecting the World Cup team.

Another challenge facing Herdman will be keeping his team competitive. Being tournament hosts means Canada does not need to qualify. Canada will need to play friendlies against quality sides to stay sharp and evaluate talent.

The Canadian Soccer Association and corporate Canada will also have a role to play. Money doesn't always buy championships but it certainly makes life easier. An increased budget will allow for more training camps and increased travel.

"If there's investors out there, if there are people working in the regions, we need your talented players,'' Herdman told The Globe and Mail. "Let's do it, and make 2015 better than this.''

[Related: Should Christine Sinclair be Canada's flag bearer?]

There's always the intangibles when looking ahead three years. Players may retire or injuries can alter careers. Coaches for the women's team also seem to have a best-before-date.

When Even Pellerud was coach he was praised by the women. When he left the players criticized the style he wanted them to play. When Carolina Morace took over as coach the players credited her with revitalizing the program. Then came the crash in Germany and Morace quit.

It's unlikely the Herdman's bronze glow will fade but who knows.

For the women's team, reaching the medal podium in London is like climbing a mountain. They hope to go even higher at the 2015 World Cup but want to avoid slipping and falling.

More London Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Canada Sports:
Should Sinclair be Canada's Closing Ceremony flag-bearer?
Video: Usain Bolt blasts his way into history
Photos: Hard hits of Olympic boxing

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