Abbotsford soccer star going to London for Olympics

Some of the biggest games of Sophie Schmidt’s soccer career are ahead of her, as the Abbotsford woman gets set for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Sophie Schmidt is on the Canadian Olympic soccer team.

Sophie Schmidt is on the Canadian Olympic soccer team.

Some of the biggest games of Sophie Schmidt’s soccer career are ahead of her, as the Abbotsford woman gets set for the 2012 Olympic Games in London later this month.

If all the pomp and ceremony of the Games can be a distraction to an athlete, Schmidt expects the veteran Canadian side to be more focused than most.

“We’re familiar with each other. We have so much experience, and for a lot of us it’s our second go-around in the Olympics.”

She was in Beijing in 2008, and Schmidt has 74 caps at just 24 years of age. She enters this Olympics as one of the leaders on the pitch, an all-around midfielder, and she relishes the attacking role she has been given by coach John Herdman.

“I love going forward with the ball at my feet,” she said.

She looks for opportunities to shoot, and to get the ball to captain Christine Sinclair, who has netted 134 goals for Canada.

They have been placed in a tough group of four for the Olympics. Only two teams will advance, and also in the group is Japan, which won the World Cup last summer and enters the Olympic tournament ranked third.

Canada opens against Japan on July 25.

Also in the group is Sweden, a squad ranked fourth in the tournament, but Schmidt said the Canadians have played them even in recent years.

The only reprieve for Canada might be 65th-ranked South Africa.

Schmidt said the Canadian women, who are themselves ranked seventh, are only thinking about gold.

“You’ve got to beat the best teams to win a medal,” she said. “We’re going out there with a mindset to win.”

The Canadian women are out to erase the memories of last summer’s World Cup in Germany, where they were dispatched with an 0-3 record, having been outscored 7-1.

They finished second in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament with the silver medal, but lost to the top-ranked U.S. squad 4-0 in the final.

On Saturday they faced the U.S. powerhouse one last time before the Olympics, in a friendly match in Salt Lake City. The result was a 2-1 U.S. win.