The rest of the world is catching up to Canada
Watching Canada’s women’s national team can be a blast. John Herdman’s girls showed at the 2012 Olympics that they can entertain and play good football, but casual fans often feel more like it’s an obligation or a chore to support our women’s team. It doesn’t need to be – but yesterday’s 0-0 draw against Mexico at BC Place won’t have done much to convince them.
The scene in Vancouver on Sunday afternoon was of a city, and country, that has got behind the sport. Canada was an early adopter of girls soccer on a large scale and 2012’s bronze medal was a long-awaited reward.
By the time of the 2015 Women’s World Cup on home soil, though, that squad will be three years older. Against Mexico, seven of the starting lineup had began the Olympic semifinal in London. Christine Sinclair, the hero of the 2012 tournament, will turn 32 during the World Cup.
Canada’s tried and tested formula may need some retooling, but Herdman hasn’t seemed too concerned – while I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, he rarely acknowledges that there was anything wrong with his team’s performances.
At BMO Field in June against the United States, Herdman’s team dropped a 3-0 decision, but he could only offer cryptic promises of improvement.
“Don’t write us off,” he told reporters after the game. “We’ll be back.” Back they were with a 1-0 loss in Germany later that month, a result that prompted Herdman to remind us all that “there is still some time left to catch these Germans.” His comment that “defensively, we were able to hold them” seemed at odds with goalkeeper Erin McLeod winning footballer of the match honours.
In the past, Canada could have sat deep against a team from a less developed women’s footballing nation – like Mexico – and waited for someone like Charmaine Hooper or Christine Sinclair to get the winner. That nearly happened last night, but the truth is that the rest of the world is catching up. On paper, our team can repeat that medal run from 2012, but we need to take more risks in order to beat teams that used to be a given.
Herdman is an affable, media-friendly guy, and by all accounts he’s one of the more professional coaches in all of football. I don’t expect Canada to win the Women’s World Cup at home, even if the heady days of 2012 made me a bit optimistic, but it might take a more serious break from that tournament’s philosophy if we’re going to go as far as we can in 2015.