John Herdman and the Canadian women’s soccer team left France for Rio on Sunday night, feeling "bloody excited to get there."
Canada, ranked 10th in the world, left on the heels of a 1-0 win over No. 12 China last Wednesday and a 1-0 loss to No. 3 France on Saturday. Herdman thought his players deserved a better fate against the French.
"It was a dominant performance against China. A real dominant performance," Herdman told The Canadian Press prior to boarding an 11-hour flight to Brazil. "And then they’ve come into the French (game) and carried that through. The first half was tight and then the second half, I thought Canada were clearly the better team.
"And if you can go into an Olympics knowing you can say that against a genuine medal contender then you know you’re in the mix. And that’s not trying to oversell it. We’re underdogs for sure, but we were able to push the French. And if we keep that form up and that spirit, who knows what can happen?"
The French did not bring on some of their top talent until the second half in Auxerre and Herdman was clearly disappointed at the final whistle that his team had not got more out of the game.
But a day later, he saw more positives in what he called a "winning performance."
"We’re in a good space but (there’s) disappointment because a win’s a win still," he added.
Herdman brought three alternates — goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, defender Marie-Eve Nault and forward Gabrielle Carle — to Brazil in addition to his 18-woman squad.
The Canadian women plan to spend some time in the Olympic Village in Rio, to soak up the Games atmosphere before heading to Sao Paulo ahead of their first match Aug. 3 against No. 5 Australia. The Canadians won’t return to Rio unless they make the semifinals.
Apprised that the Australia delegation had opted to keep its athletes out of their rooms at the Olympic Village until improvements were made, Herdman laughed.
"I haven’t heard anything. So that’s good news," he said. "We might end up in a hotel, who knows. But we haven’t heard anything from the COC (Canadian Olympic Committee). We’re just getting on this flight and I know we’re bloody excited to get there."
Canada plays No. 93 Zimbabwe and No. 2 Germany to complete pool play, in Sao Paulo and Brasilia, respectively. The top two teams in each of the three first-round groups plus the two best third-place finishers advance to the quarter-finals of the Olympic competition.
Herdman led Canada to bronze at the 2012 Games, thanks to a late Diana Matheson goal in a 1-0 win over France for third place.