Canada reclaim status as lovable losers

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So, the result didn’t quite go Canada’s way, but how ’bout that performance? Scant consolation, indeed.

Canada head coach John Herdman has since decried the “bizarre” calls that arguably cost his team a place in the gold medal match. Herdman’s complaints are probably justified, but the match should also be remembered for his side’s thoroughly audacious effort. It’s just unfortunate it resulted in a losing effort.

Some things we couldn’t help but notice:

 

  • The Great Britain victory was not a fluke. Canada humbled the hosts but some folks (guilty as charged) questioned whether they had peaked too early. The assessment after taking the lead three times against the no. 1 ranked team in the world? At last, John Herdman has transformed Canada into the real deal. They relied on what got them this far: hurly burly midfield play, compact defending, and maximizing Christine Sinclair’s attacking instincts. This team can go a long ways, despite coming up short today.

 

  • Christine Sinclair, underrated? Certainly not by WoSo obsessives. Today’s performance cements Sinclair’s place in the pantheon of women’s soccer greats. The Canadian captain’s performance was nothing short of talismanic as she reclaimed Canada’s lead three times. Today’s hat trick brings her level with Abby Wambach on 143 total international goals. Sinclair is also three years Wambach’s junior. By the time the 2015 World Cup rolls around, Mia Hamm will likely have to relinquish her title as the all-time goals record-holder. And it won’t be to an American.

 

  • If previous friendlies were any indication, this match could have featured more cards than goals. The 39 total fouls committed attests to the overtly physical nature of the game. The roughhousing gave way to some hideous scenes (Desiree Scott’s kneecap somehow remained intact after a challenge with Heather O’Reilly). But there was also a heartwarming display of sportsmanship, as Canada deliberately put the ball out of play late in regular time. It allowed for a distressed Rachel Buehler to seek medical attention. Whether it was continental kinship, Canadian manners, or upholding the Olympic spirit, it sure was nice.

 

  • Canadian midfielders Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt, and Desiree Scott put in a shift and a half today. It was an unforgiving slugfest, but Canada held sway in midfield. Carli Lloyd’s effectiveness was kept to a minimum, thanks in large part to the tireless work displayed by Canada’s midfield three. They hampered the U.S.’s creativity by allowing them virtually no time on the ball.

 

  • One can’t overstate the effect head coach John Herdman has had on his team. The Newcastle-born coach took charge of a listing ship last September. It’s now sailing on a forward course. He’s gotten the best out of inherently influential figures like Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson. But perhaps even more impressive, he’s done wonders with players threatened with marginalization under previous regimes. Melissa Tancredi has become the archetypal battering ram desirable to any team. Reinvigorated workhorse Desiree Scott has become an integral part of Canada’s set-up. Herdman has convinced his side they can be winners. Considering the fragile mental state the team was in a year ago, Herdman has already won half the battle.

 

Canada will now face France in the bronze medal match on Thursday. The 4-0 loss to France in the World Cup triggered Canada’s now infamous collapse. A victory could go a long a way, as Canada now have two devastating defeats to avenge.

A review of the victors’ heart-stopping performance to come.