The FIFA Women's World Cup opens play on Saturday as hosts Canada play former powerhouse China in Edmonton in the tournament's opening match (6 pm ET, FOX Sports 1 and Telemundo in USA and CTV in Canada). Here are five things you need to know before kickoff.
Canada holds the recent upper-hand
Canada and China have played 26 times since 1987, with China holding the overall advantage, winning 14 times to Canada's five. However, the teams have only played head-to-head three times since coaches John Herdman (Canada) and Hao Wei (China) have taken their posts, with Canada winning by one goal in all three of those contests: 1-0 in 2012 and 2013, and 2-1 in January.
The last time the two met, at the Four Nations Tournament in Shenzhen, Christine Sinclair scored back-to-back goals in under two minutes to overcome Canada's one goal deficit and put the game away. Canada went on to win the tournament for the first time, giving them some momentum heading into the World Cup.
A return to power?
Despite previous results, do not rule out China. They used to be a super power, all you have to do is go back to the 1999 Women's World Cup Final:
As hard as it is to believe that it has been sixteen years since the USA won the World Cup, it is equally as hard to believe that China has fallen this far. The country hosted the first ever Women's World Cup in 1991 and again in 2007 after pushing the responsibilities back from 2003 due to a SARS outbreak.
China also took home silver at the first ever Olympic women's soccer competition in 1996. However, the team did not even qualify for the last tournament in 2011. Long surpassed by another Asian power, reigning WWC champion Japan, China has a chip on its shoulder. But then again so does Canada, who has long played in the shadow of its Southern neighbor.
A common opponent
In years past, China has been known for its precision and Canada for its physicality. This could result in the teams playing radically different styles on Saturday, when it will be imperative for both teams to adapt quickly while remaining focused to their own game plans.
The two nations also have a recent common competitor, the sixth ranked team in the world, England. Canada beat the Three Lionesses 1-0 last Friday, while China fell to England 2-1 in April.
Playing the spoiler?
Due to their inexperienced and fairly untested squad, China are not favorites to advance deep into the tournament. While they'll be hoping to place second in Group A, their primary purpose this year will most likely be as a disruptor more than a contender.
How will Canada handle the occasion?
China has a lot at stake, but Canada has even more on the line. As host, they have a massive home field advantage, and massive expectations. They'll be riding an adrenaline rush in Edmonton after the opening ceremonies, and they'll hope to give the sea of red-clad fans at Commenwealth Stadium plenty to cheer about.
Come game time there will be no more niceties -- who will handle the pressure best?