If Canadian players need inspiration when they take on top-ranked Germany on Sunday, they need only look at Sophie Schmidt.
The 28-year-old midfielder from Abbotsford, B.C., is playing with a protective Zorro-like mask after suffering broken facial bones in a nasty head-to-head collision in a game against Russia last month at the Algarve Cup.
Schmidt collided with a Russian as they jumped for the ball. Both went down, with Schmidt picking herself up and then walking off the pitch for treatment.
“Two broken bones at least,” said Schmidt, who had to sit out the Algarve Cup final. “The cheekbone, the arch closer to the ear has collapsed. And then also a little bit with my eye.
“Thankfully it was only, I guess, structurally bones that were injured and nothing more. There were no complications — no concussion, no blackout. And so it was a relatively simple healing process, just bones needed to heal.”
It didn’t stop Schmidt from starting in Canada‘s 1-0 win over Olympic silver medallist Sweden in Trelleborg on Thursday. Schmidt forced an acrobatic save from the Swedish ‘keeper in the first half when she took a pass from captain Christine Sinclair and hammered the ball at the top corner.
The game against sixth-ranked Sweden marked Schmidt’s 160th cap — and 140th start. she has 18 goals.
Schmidt is expected to figure Sunday when the Canadian women, who won bronze in Rio last summer, take on Olympic champion Germany in Erfurt.
It’s a tough ask for the fifth-ranked Canadians, given their schedule and the fact that the Germans are rested and waiting for them. But the Canadian women made a statement in Brazil last summer when they beat Germany 2-1 in group play, Canada’s first win in 13 tries and 22 years.
Prior to that win, the Canadian women had been outscored 38-13 by Germany.
The Germans had the last laugh, dispatching Canada 2-0 in the Olympic semifinals. But a point had been proven by the Canadians.
Schmidt says past losses mean nothing.
“For a lot of our players, especially the ones who were there in Rio, they have a 50-50 record against Germany — they only have a win and a loss,” she said. “Because of that (Olympic) result, anything is possible … We’re going in with that mindset, that we’re here to win and we’re totally capable of that if we play up to our standards.”
Injured March 3, Schmidt faces another three weeks or so of wearing the custom-made mask while playing.
She took to social media soon after the injury to thank the medical staff, hospital and her teammates, among others.
“Broken face and all there are still so much to smile about,” she wrote.
The good news is she no longer feels the pain she did the first week when the facial and jaw muscles were tight and chewing hurt.
“My discomfort is minimal four weeks out now,” she said. “I feel very comfortable and I feel very safe with my mask on, which is also a good thing.”
Wearing the mask, Schmidt scored a wonder-goal for her Frankfurt club team in a 1-1 tie with Freiburg on March 27. She volleyed a clearance with her right foot from some 30 yards out, hammering it over the goalkeeper’s head.
“It was a cracker,” coach John Herdman said at the time, jokingly adding: “She’s going to have to wear that mask all the time now.”