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Canada’s English coach won’t take sides about next opponent

Canada coach John Herdman, right, celebrates as Josee Belanger, back, is mobbed by her teammates after scoring against Switzerland during the second half of the FIFA Women's World Cup round of 16 soccer action in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on Sunday June 21, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The coach of Canada is an Englishman, and insists he doesn’t care whether his team plays England or Norway next in the Women’s World Cup.

Really.

“For us, we’re just on task. We’ll play any of those teams and we’ll be prepared like we were for the Swiss today,” John Herdman said following his team’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Switzerland on Sunday.

The Canadians will be back in Vancouver’s BC Place on Saturday — against the winner of Monday’s England-Norway match — ready to grind through another game.

One goal has been enough.

“We have not been a team ever that has romped teams,” Herdman said.

Josee Belanger’s goal in the 52nd minute was enough against the Swiss, along with some late-game stops by goalkeeper Erin McLeod.

Canada has allowed one goal in four games in advancing out of the group stage for only the second time, and first since 2003.

“In the second half especially we played like the Canada I know,” McLeod said. “For us at this stage it’s huge. There have been a lot of upsets in this tournament already. We want to go all the way. We’ve set a lot of even bigger goals, inspiring a country and not just on the soccer field.”

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STAY, JUST A LITTLE BIT LONGER: This Women’s World Cup is bigger than before with the field expanded to 24 teams, up from 16. An extra stage was added.

More games result in more travel. U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe says her team will be crisscrossing Canada for about five weeks.

The World Cup is being played across six Canadian cities, from Vancouver on the West Coast to Moncton, New Brunswick — a distance of about 3,600 miles.

But the second-ranked Americans have had a five-day layoff between the group stage and Monday’s round-of-16 match against Colombia.

“We’ve had some extra days in there, which is good for the body. Sort of trying to stave off the boredom, that’s difficult,” Rapinoe said. “But it’s nice to get a couple of extra days — with so much travel that we’ve done in playing these games. Obviously our games were very taxing, physically and mentally.”

The United States finished atop the so-called Group of Death at the World Cup, with victories against Australia and Nigeria and a scoreless draw with Sweden.

During a break in the team’s preparation, the team went to the West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America. It has an indoor waterpark.

No one recognized them.

“Someone came up to me, and she was like, ‘I’m a tourist, and I was wondering, did there used to be a dinosaur in this building?’ ” U.S. star Alex Morgan said. “I was waiting for it and waiting for it, and no, she was just asking me a question.”

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NORWAY LOOKS FOR OLYMPIC BID: Norway coach Even Pellerud takes no consolation in knowing his team has a chance to end rival Sweden’s chance of qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“If the question was if we are happy to eliminate Sweden, that’s a no. I have a lot of respect for Pia and her staff, the Swedish team,” Pellerud said, referring to Swedish coach Pia Sundhage.

“We are not performing to punish Sweden. … Whoever becomes a part of this group of teams from Europe, the only question for us is, is Norway there?'”

Under Olympic rules, the top-three European World Cup finishers qualify for the Olympics.

Top-ranked Germany and third-ranked France have already advanced to the quarterfinals. That leaves one spot open, which will be decided between Norway and England.

Sweden lost to Germany 4-1 on Saturday.

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AND THEN THERE’S ENGLAND: England coach Mark Sampson doesn’t regard his team as a favorite over Norway, no matter what the FIFA rankings say.

“First and foremost, there’s no underdogs in this game,” Sampson said, when reminded England is ranked sixth, five spots ahead of Norway entering their game on Monday.

What Sampson won’t argue is that England is in a far better position now than two years ago, when the Brits were ranked 11th.

“We have huge respect for our opponents. And we’re aware of what we can bring to the game,” he said. “We’re in a great place not to really come into this tournament and approach this game tomorrow with a confident mindset.”

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GROWING THE GAME: South Korean coach Dukyeo Yoon knows how far his team has come — and how far it still has to go.

The Taeguk Ladies had never won a World Cup game before beating Spain 2-1 in a Group E game. (They had only scored one goal while losing all three matches in their only other World Cup appearance, a 14th-place finish in 2003.)

A 3-0 loss to third-ranked France ended their 2015 tournament, and Yoon took a moment to think about the future.

“In order for us to advance in the world stage, the players’ individual skills could be improved,” he said, adding that the coaching needs to improve, too. “That’s our challenge.

“We don’t have sturdy grassroots soccer in Korea. We need to build a sturdy grassroots framework,” he said. “But we made it in 12 years to the World Cup (round of 16) … I am convinced those players can play a role in that next World Cup. They will grow, and gain even more experience.”

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RECAPPING SUNDAY: No. 10 Australia advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time — on either the men’s or women’s side — with a 1-0 victory over seventh-ranked Brazil. … Host Canada, ranked No. 8, defeated No. 19 Switzerland 1-0 before a raucous crowd in Vancouver. … Third-ranked France, considered a favorite in Canada despite a group-stage stumble against Colombia, defeated No. 18 South Korea 3-0.

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UP NEXT: The second-ranked United States faces No. 28 Colombia at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, while No. 11 Norway faces No. 6 England in Ottawa.

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AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen in Montreal, John Wawrow in Ottawa and Anne M. Peterson in Edmonton contributed to this report.

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