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Canada’s coach gets ready to face former team at World Cup

Canada coach John Herdman sets up a board before the team's practice for the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer tournament Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Canada meets New Zealand on Thursday. (Neil Davidson/The Canadian Press via AP)

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Canada coach John Herdman figures there will be some emotion when his team takes on New Zealand on Thursday night.

Herdman coached New Zealand at the past two Women’s World Cups. In the 2011 edition in Germany, the Ferns were already eliminated when they played a gutsy 2-all draw with Mexico.

That got Herdman noticed by the Canadian national team, which made him head coach in September 2011, taking over for Carolina Morace.

“Just really looking forward to this match,” Herdman said on the eve of the game against his former team in Edmonton, Alberta. “For people who know the history — I’ve worked with this (New Zealand) team, given it six years of my life, and they’ve given me six years of theirs. I’ve known a lot of these girls from when they were teenagers and now they’re at the peak of their careers.”

Herdman has already proven to be a good hire for Canada, which surprised many by winning the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics. As coach of the host nation, there’s plenty of pressure on Herdman to push Canada to a podium finish at the World Cup.

The eighth-ranked Canadians opened the World Cup by defeating China 1-0 with a second-half stoppage-time penalty kick by captain Christine Sinclair, drawing roars from the home-country crowd of more than 53,000 at Commonwealth Stadium.

With a victory over the Ferns on Thursday night, Canada will be assured a spot in the knockout round.

New Zealand, ranked No. 17, opened Group A with a disappointing 1-0 loss to the Netherlands last Saturday.

Herdman’s former assistant, Tony Readings, was promoted as New Zealand’s head coach when Herdman left. In London, Readings led the Ferns to the knockout stage for the first time. Both Canada and New Zealand fell to the United States at the Olympics.

Herdman’s love for his former team didn’t prevent him from a little trash talk before the match.

“I think, quality for quality, we’re a better team than New Zealand,” he said Wednesday. “If we connect, and we connect like we did against China for periods, and we improve on some things and live the game plan, Canada should win this game.”

Other story lines around the World Cup:

MONCTON QUEUES: There was criticism of the logistics in Moncton, New Brunswick, following what fans said were long lines, too few entrances and a shuttle bus shortage at Moncton Stadium.

Fans posted images of the lines before the Group F opening match between France and England on Tuesday while television coverage of the game showed a half-empty stadium at the start. Attendance for the match was later announced at 11,686. Capacity was 13,000.

“The National Organizing Committee and local venue are reviewing the operations of Tuesday’s match in Moncton and will identify improvements on spectator flow where possible. We are working on communication strategies to remind spectators that with largely attended sporting events of this nature, enhanced security measures are put in place which may lengthen the entry process and thus should plan to arrive earlier at the stadium,” the NOC said in a statement.

The next games in Moncton, on the Atlantic side of Canada in the Maritime Providences, are on Saturday when France faces Colombia and England takes on Mexico.

WEDNESDAY RECAP: The teams all had a day off on Wednesday.

LOOKING AHEAD: Before Canada’s match against New Zealand, China plays the Netherlands in the earlier Group A match at Commonwealth Stadium. At Ottawa’s Landsdowne Stadium, Group B continues with top-ranked Germany facing Norway before Ivory Coast plays Thailand.

FINAL WORD: There are no vuvuzelas (remember those?) allowed at the World Cup. A few were seen in a trash can near an entrance at Winnipeg Stadium on Monday.

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