After a disappointing end to the 2019-20 campaign for the Melbourne Victory, the club’s first matter of business as they head into the offseason is to appoint a new manager.
In a matter of weeks the women’s World Cup kicks off. It’s a tournament that’s been around for less than 30 years, but with the growth of women’s football, it’s now very much a must-watch event around the world for any sport fan.
In Australia the Matildas will be the team of choice for many Roar contributors and readers as they look to improve on their quarter-final appearance four years ago. But when you’re not watching their games, there is another squad you should keep an eye on: Canada.
Let me give you a few reasons why you should also pay attention to their matches.
Christine Sinclair’s record chase
In the most global game it’s a bit funny to look at things and realise that the two most prolific goalscorers come from a couple of the places where football is not the No. 1 sport. American striker Abby Wambach retired from football in 2016 after scoring 184 goals in international play. The mark, which is the most for any woman in football, was set during a 14-year international career but could very well be broken in France.
Christine Sinclair is Canada’s most prolific striker, and at the time of this writing she has 181 international goals. The odds are very high that she’ll stand on top of the women’s goalscoring podium in France.
Sinclair has been on the national stage over in this part of the world since she was an 18-year-old putting on a show at the FIFA under-19 World Cup in 2002, scoring ten goals to propel Canada to the silver medal.
Christine has stepped up for Canada too many times to mention at various tournaments over the years, and one thing that’s always stayed consistent has been the fact she’s placed the team’s accomplishments over her own. One of the greatest records in football may fall in a matter of weeks, but Canada’s greatest football player will handle it like any other goal, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The nation of red and white will do more than enough applauding of her accolades when the record is broken.
Canadian youth is taking over the world
When people talk about Canadian football players abroad the mind defaults straight to Alphonso Davies, the Edmonton, Alberta, product playing at Bayern Munich. There’s very good reason for this, what with how bright his future is, but Canada also has some very strong exports in the women’s game. If you don’t already know their names, you’ll get to know them very soon – names such as Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Adriana Leon and Jordyn Huitema.
Kadiesha is the best-known name of the three. She’s currently patrolling the backline for Lyon in Division 1 Feminine, where she was a member of the women’s UEFA Champions League squad.
Buchanan came onto the scene for Canada in 2013 and made a name for herself for her strong defensive play in a friendly in Toronto against the United States at only 17 years old. After that friendly in Toronto Buchanan went on to play in the 2015 women’s World Cup, where she was named the best young player of the tournament by FIFA. Following a strong NCAA career at West Virginia she jumped straight into the European game and is under contract with Lyon until 2022.
Canada is a hockey and basketball country, but the youth of our national football program are making waves.
Is this the year the US finally falls to their northern neighbours?
It has been 18 years since 2001, when the senior-level women’s team has handed a loss to the US. The record since then has been 0-29-6, with two of the closest looks at a Canada win coming in 2012 at the infamous Olympic semi-final match that saw Canada fall 4-3 and in 2014, when the Americans salvaged a 1-1 draw in a friendly.
In the last World Cup the US won on Canadian soil in British Columbia over Japan, but the last major tournament saw Canada leave the Olympics with bronze while the red, white and blue didn’t even make it to the podium.
Yes, on paper that record looks horrible, but almost every game has either been a one or two-goal match. A bounce here or there could have easily changed things, and with one of the strongest Canadian national sides in recent memory, fortune may finally return to Canada in France.
Can Canada finally get past the quarter-finals again?
Making a World Cup semi-final has been the biggest hurdle for Canadian women’s football. Canada hasn’t made it past the quarter-finals since 2003, when they fell to Sweden in the semi-final. In the first major tournament of Kenneth Heiner-Moller’s tenure as coach it will be interesting to see how his squad responds to this.
Group E looks like one Canada will get out of – the other nations include New Zealand, Cameroon and the Netherlands – but how will this side handle the knockout round? Canada having a possible run to finally make it back to the final four could in his first major tournament be a legacy-setter for Heiner-Moller in his first World Cup.
June will come upon us sooner than we think, and all eyes will turn to what one of the top five women’s football nations can do this summer.