Their faces told the whole story. Despite having played on par with Sweden for 90 minutes their was no satisfaction that could be taken off of the pitch at the Parc des Princes. With a 1-0 scoreline Canada had been defeated by Sweden in the Round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup.
Whenever a team goes out of a World Cup early there is always a period in which those closest to the team diagnose what specific moments went wrong. Against Sweden the moment that sticks out the most is that of the penalty kick in the 65th minute. Although they were down a goal already, the opportunity to equalize could shift the balance of the match. With Christine Sinclair, one of the greatest goalscorers in soccer, on the pitch it seemed as if CANWNT were destined to level the score.
But a funny thing happened on the way to a tied game and possibly extra time: Sinclair didn’t take the kick, Janine Beckie did. Beckie missed her penalty and while it is not fair to point the blame at either player (Beckie does have 25 goals for the senior national team) Canada did miss an opportunity to get back into the match.
The Sweden loss underscored what was a very strange tournament for Canada. Although they got results against New Zealand and Cameroon they never quite looked like the side that has made deep runs at both the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. Their loss against the Netherlands perhaps showed more of what they can do even though the result wasn’t exactly desirable.
Canada’s World Cup seems to point towards a changing of the guard within their roster. Fourteen players on their roster were under the age of 25 and four of their players were over the age of 30 which suggests that Head Coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller and the Canadian Soccer Association saw this tournament as an opportunity to give players more experience. That certainly happened with their back four of Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky, Rebecca Quinn, and Lindsay Agnew becoming one of the top units in the world.
What will be interesting to see is how this integration works at the striker position ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Sinclair has already said she will be there but what will her role be? It is up to Moller and the Canadian staff to find the right role for her while also giving opportunities for younger players to shine. Tokyo has the possibility to be a big moment for CANWNT but they have to make the right moves to make it happen.