Canada just passed the round of 16 and is onto the quarter-finals. Tonight we find out if the Reds will face off against England or Norway. Spread out across our vast country and without the myopic media-hub in Toronto, at times the World Cup has missed out on the hype. Edmonton and Vancouver have been getting into the spirit and are blessed to see our women’s team up close. Is this what eastern alienation feels like?
In Ottawa on game days around Lansdowne the World Cup does feel like the world-class party that it is. But without Canada’s women close-by, Ottawa is not drowning in passionate support. Our city has missed out by not organizing a large public screen to see all the matches. Our women merit the street parties that we saw in last year’s men’s World Cup in Brazil. Parliament Hill is setting up the stage for Canada Day, it’s time to dust off the flags, what better time to get out and support Canada?
Canada was never going to be the tournament’s most talented team (that title belongs to France and Germany who are facing off in the quarter-finals) nor do they think they are ‘the best’ (the United States). But this is a World Cup, flare and arrogance are not always the best weapons. Teams go forward by getting done what needs doing; by getting by. Could there be anything more Canadian?
A last-minute penalty victory against China, a scoreless draw against New Zealand and a late-goal conceded to Netherlands for another draw saw Canada through the group stage in first place. Last night’s game against Switzerland resembled our previous performances. Canada working hard to keep the scoreline at 0-0 into the half, everyone glued to the television was a nervous wreck. To be a fly on the wall at half-time; Canada came out of the dressing room like the match-favourite that there were. Nearly ten minutes of sustained attacking soccer led to a beautiful goal by Bélanger, curled into the far post. The cross by Wilkinson followed by the lay off by Sinclair was world-class.
And after a few more speculative attacks, Canada fell back into its World Cup leading defence; just as if they were following the strategy-sheet of the Italian men’s national team. Here is Canada’s strength: a back-line of a 19 year-old wrecking ball we call Kadeisha supported by the terrier Allysha Chapman and the reliable foundation of cool veterans Wilkinson and Sesselmann. The win was well deserved and each individual performance only highlighted that this is a team; Canada’s team.
A lot of focus has been placed on one player and some maybe surprised by this reality: Sinclair has not been a goal scoring machine thus far. Anyone following her evolution on the national team should not be surprised. As her goal tallies have fallen off, Canada has ironically become a more difficult team to beat. Her importance to Canada is her leadership, her understanding of the game, and commitment to this team. A slow burning fire of determination, purpose, and moments of brilliance. When Canada needs her, like from the penalty spot against China, she is right where she needs to be.
Canada has performed each match the same way and it’s like walking on a knife edge for the supporters. Our players, however, do not panic. They know that World Cups are about results and Canada has been getting it done. And they play with the confidence that each and everyone of our women will leave everything on the field to get the result. What more can we ask for?
Support. That’s where we come in. If you need an example of “how” just look to the players on our bench during the last fifteen minutes; there were no louder supporters. Ottawa, it is pretty simple, next Saturday: put on your red and white, hang up the maple-leaf a few days early, tell people you’ll put on the match, get together with your friends, turn up the sound, and get behind this team.
Allez allez allez, Les Rouges allez!
Quarterfinals Match details:
Saturday June 27, Kick-off 7:30PM EST
Canada vs England/Norway