- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - U.S. forward Sydney Leroux was born in Canada and grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver. But because her father is American, at 14 she moved to Arizona in hopes of playing for the U.S. team.

That didn’t sit well with some Canadians, who booed her back in 2012 at an Olympic qualifying match in Vancouver, and again during a 2013 match against Canada in Toronto. Leroux scored in stoppage time in that game and then pointed to the U.S. crest on her jersey during the Toronto match.

Going into the World Cup in Canada, Leroux said she had no idea what the reception would be.

But there probably won’t be any boos on Tuesday when the U.S. team takes the field at BC Place for its final group stage match against Nigeria. Some 50,000 fans are expected at the game, but if the U.S. team’s first two matches in Winnipeg, Manitoba, are any indication, the crowd will be decidedly pro-Leroux.

Fans streamed across the border to watch the U.S. team, filling Winnipeg Stadium in red, white and blue.

The United States, ranked second in the world, is considered one of the favorites at the monthlong tournament played across six Canadian cities. Had the U.S. women been grouped with Canada in the opening stage, the reaction toward Leroux would have been markedly difference.

Leroux said Monday she’ll have some 50 people at the game.

“I love Vancouver more than any other city in the world. Obviously my mom still lives here, my family still loves it here. This city is very dear to my heart,” Leroux said.

She said it feels like most Canadian fans have moved on.

“The amount of people who have come up to me while walking the streets of Vancouver - even Canadian fans - are like ‘Congratulations, we’re proud of you. We’re coming to the game, we’re rooting for you guys.’ It’s been really cool,” she said.

Here’s a look at some other things going on at the Women’s World Cup:

FACING AMERICA: Nigeria forward Asisat Oshoala is not a stranger to the big stage: She was the top scorer at the 2014 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

She’s returned to the North American country this year with Nigeria’s senior team, which is preparing to face the United States in its final World Cup group-stage match on Tuesday night.

Oshoala, just 21, is one of the best players on the Super Falcons, who need a victory over the United States to advance to the knockout round. The second-ranked Americans are considered the heavy favorites.

As a young player, Oshoala is facing women that she grew up idolizing, like U.S. forward Abby Wambach.

“It’s a great moment for me, you know, knowing I’m going to play against with players I’ve always loved to be like; I’ve always looked forward to be like in the future,” she said. “I’m still very much young, and when I was younger I watched players like Hope Solo and Abby Wambach and I was always like ‘Mommy, I want to be like this person.’

“So playing against them is a very good thing for me and it is also motivational for me because I need to give my best, to put in my best tomorrow night, not just for my nation but for my parents, because when I was younger I always talked about them (the U.S. stars),” she said.

Nigeria has won seven of nine African championships. They have been to every World Cup since it started for the women in 1991.

But the Super Falcons sit in last place in Group D with just one point. Nigeria played to a 3-all draw with Sweden in their opener, before falling 2-0 to Australia in the second match.

The second-ranked United States is atop Group D and the team will advance as the top-finisher in the group with a win. That would send the Americans to Edmonton, Alberta, for their opening match of the knockout round.

The U.S. opened group D with a 3-1 victory over No. 10 Australia, before playing to a 0-0 draw with No. 5 Sweden.

SAFER SOCCER INITIATIVE: Former U.S. national team stars Kristine Lilly and Julie Foudy, as well as former national team head coach Tony DiCicco and the Women’s Sports Foundation are among those who on Monday lent their support to the Safer Soccer Initiative.

The grassroots campaign recommends that those kids not be taught headers until they’re high school age, after their brains and necks have had a chance to develop. The nearly year-old educational campaign is a joint effort between the Sports Legacy Institute, a concussion research and advocacy nonprofit, and the Santa Clara Institute of Sports Law and Ethics.

Advocates for the initiative say that headers - not just the actual header itself but the collisions and falls that occur in the act of performing one - are one of the leading causes of concussions in children who play soccer.

RECAPPING MONDAY: Host Canada finished atop group A with a 1-all draw over the Netherlands and will open the knockout round in Vancouver against a yet-to-be determined opponent. China also advanced in the tournament as the group’s second-place finisher following a 2-all draw with New Zealand.

Lena Petermann scored twice in three minutes and top-ranked Germany defeated Thailand 4-0 Monday to finish atop Group B, and will head to Ottawa for its first match of the round of 16. Norway advanced by finishing second in the group following a 3-1 victory over Ivory Coast.

UP NEXT: In addition to Nigeria’s match against the United States in Vancouver, Sweden and former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage play Australia in Edmonton to determine the final standings in Group D. Defending World Cup champion Japan, which has already secured a spot in the next round, plays Ecuador in its Group C finale, while Switzerland plays Cameroon.

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