Special to MLSSoccer.com
Women's World Cup 2015 opens play Saturday, June 6 -- with host Canada versus former powerhouse China as the opening match (6pm ET, FOX Sports 1 and Telemundo in USA and CTV in Canada).
These are the five things you need to know before kickoff:
1) The two have played 26 times since 1987 for an overall 14-5-7 record in favor of the Chinese. However, the teams have only played head-to-head three times since coaches John Herdman (Canada) and Hao Wei (China) have taken their posts. During these matches Canada won by one goal each: 1-0 in 2012 and 2013, and 2-1 in most recently.
As hard as it is to believe that it has been sixteen years since the USA won, it is equally as hard to believe that China fell from grace. The country hosted the first ever Women's World Cup in 1991 and again in 2007 after pushing the responsibilities back from 2003 due to a SARS outbreak.
The last time the two met, at BaoAn Cup CFA Women's International Football tournament Shenzhen 2015 (also known as the Four Nations), Christine Sinclair scored back-to-back goals in under two minutes to overcome the team's 31st minute deficit and put the game away. For the first time in history, Canada went on to win the entire tournament, resulting in a total ego booster for the Big Red. However, the infrequency of recent play makes Saturday's opener a tad bit unpredictable.
2) Despite previous results, do not rule out China. They use to be a super power -- remember when they faced the United States in the final back in 1999?
China also took home silver at the first ever Olympic women's soccer competition in 1996. However, the team did not even qualify for the last tournament in 2011. Long surpassed by another Asian power - reigning WWC champion Japan, China has a chip on its shoulder. But then again so does Canada who has long been in the shadow of its Southern neighbor.
3) In years past, China has been known for its precision and Canada for its physicality. Because the teams will be playing different styles from one another, it will be imperative to adapt quickly while remaining focused to their own game plans. They are both known for playing quality to be dependent on their opponents' level.
The two nations have a recent common competitor, No. 6-ranked England -- Canada won 1-0 and China lost 2-1.
4) China has proven be a very secretive team. There are not many reports on its recent performances, which leads some to think they may have a few tricks up their sleeves or at least that is what they want us to think. Due to its inexperienced and fairly untested squad, it will most likely not continue deep into the tournament but it could place second in the group just for trying hard. Its primary purpose this year is to be a disruptor more than a contender. However, Canada really needs this win.
5) China has a lot at stake but Canada has even more. As host, they have a massive home field advantage. Canada will be riding an adrenaline rush after the Opening Ceremonies as the host of the tournament and in front of a sea of red, for the Red Nation not the Steel Roses.
Come game time there will be no more niceties -- who will handle the pressure best?