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Canadian women's soccer team rubs shoulders with prime minister on Parliament Hill

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes a photo with members of the Canadian Women's national soccer team on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Monday June 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
June 06, 2016 - 4:10 PM

OTTAWA - The Canadian women's soccer team did a little sightseeing and rubbed shoulders with the prime minister on Monday before getting down to business — preparing for Tuesday's rematch with Brazil.

On a morning trip to Parliament Hill, the women even managed to get a broad smile out of a police officer wielding an automatic weapon as several players showed off their muscles next to him.

The team was posing for a group photo in front of Parliament when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Carla Qualtrough, minister of sport and persons with disabilities, appeared from behind in a high-profile photo op that the players had not known about.

"Wait, a group picture on Parliament Hill without me," said the PM as the surprised team cheered and clapped.

"I know you're cheering for Carla," Trudeau added.

He shook hands with all the team, pausing longer with captain Christine Sinclair to thank her for her leadership. Sinclair, in turn, gave him a team jersey with his name on it. Qualtrough also got a jersey.

Trudeau then got in the middle of the group photo before posing for selfies with the team.

While Ottawa hosted games at last summer's World Cup, Canada has not played in the capital since a 2-1 win over Brazil in July 2003.

John Herdman's squad will be looking for a win Tuesday night at TD Place after losing to the Olympic hosts 2-0 on Saturday in Toronto.

More than 90 per cent of the tickets had been sold as of Monday morning.

Initial reviews of the BMO Field weekend performance were pessimistic, but Herdman and his players saw more positives in the light of day.

Still the coach wants to see some offence. In its last seven games on Canadian soil, including five at the World Cup, his team has managed just five goals.

"They have to score," Herdman said after training. "We're not having 20-odd thousand people from Ottawa coming out and watching us and going home and not celebrating a goal. I remember going to games with my dad and you can't replace those moments where you're standing and the whole crowd celebrates. That's what you get excited for.

"And this team has challenged themselves. They said they don't want to be that Canadian team that just defends well. We were one of the best defensive units in the World Cup (where they conceded just three goals in five games). We still are. But they have to step (up to) this next level. Some of that's being smarter than the other day (against Brazil), picking our moments to attack. But when we get in that attacking quarter, really going for it. And I felt that little bit of the edge is missing at the minute. Hopefully they'll bring that."

Brazil is a tough nut to crack, however. Sinclair, for one, believes the eighth-ranked Brazilians are one of the favourites to win Olympic gold at home

"They're one of the best teams in the world ... These are the teams that we're going to have to beat if we want to get back on the podium," she said prior to training Monday.

Sinclair believes her 10th-ranked team has the potential to excel, following on the heels of the bronze medal-winning squad she led in London four years ago.

"We got on a roll at the right time," she said of the last Olympics. "And hopefully this team can do the same. I think we're a lot more dangerous this time around. We've added a lot of pace, a lot of young players that are doing tremendously for us. And it's just a matter of can we put it together at the right time like we did in London."

Still there are no easy games in women's soccer these days, she said.

"Now you look at the field and you've got eight to 10 teams that could get on the podium. Eight years ago you pretty much knew who was going to win before the tournament started."

The Canadian team was also honoured at City Hall on Monday, with veteran defender Rhian Wilkinson as the player spokeswoman.

After practice, the Canadian players and coach posed for photos with star-struck members of the Ottawa Fury women's academy.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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