PARIS — You could not help but feel bad for Canada’s women’s national soccer team as they filed past the media mix zone at the Parc des Princes on Monday with tears in their eyes following a painful defeat at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The 1-0 loss to Sweden ended Canada’s tournament at the Round of 16 stage and sent the team home much earlier than anticipated.
Canada was in it to win it and believed they had the team capable of contending for the World Cup title.
A semifinal berth, at the very least, was within reach for, arguably, the most talented soccer team ever assembled in the country.
Yet, sports do not always go according to script, and instead of being remembered for their impressive accomplishments as the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams were, Canada will be considered underachievers at this tournament.
Here are three observations from the loss to Sweden.
BECKIE WILL BOUNCE BACK
Accepting Christine Sinclair’s offer to take a decisive penalty kick for Canada in the loss to Sweden revealed a lot about Janine Beckie’s character.
Beckie, 24, will be the captain of this team one day when Sinclair finally steps away, and acted as a leader when called upon.
Most players would have deferred back to Sinclair in that situation, who felt Beckie was better suited to take the spot kick against Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. Sinclair was stopped by Lindahl in a penalty shootout at the Algarve Cup this past March and felt Beckie was better suited to beat the towering goalkeeper on Monday.
Beckie took on the challenge head on. She didn’t miss the penalty, it was stopped. The shot was well placed, but Lindahl guess correctly, and more importantly, kept a foot on the line as the kick was taken to preserve the victory.
Despite being bitterly disappointed and feeling she had let Canada down, Beckie made her way through each and every media request following the game, as leaders do.
“They put their chance away and we didn’t,” Beckie said. “For most of the game, I thought we really nullified their threats and shut down their midfield.”
Beckie is an outstanding player, but she did not have a particularly strong game against Sweden, trying to do too much at times.
Playing out on the wing also didn’t help as she is a player who is most effective when allowed to roam the field and take on defenders with her incredible speed and skill.
Canada is fortunate to have Beckie on their roster, having been born in Colorado to Canadian parents. She chose to play for Canada and represented her country proudly.
She will bounce back from the disappointment and lead Canada to bigger and better things.
SAD END FOR VETERANS
The loss to Sweden may have been it for the remaining members of Canada’s golden generation, who will likely not play in another World Cup.
At 36, Christine Sinclair probably played her last World Cup game and goes out joining Brazil’s Marta as one of only two players to score in five tournaments.
Sinclair has been an outstanding ambassador for her country since bursting on to the national consciousness as a teenager, leading Canada to the final of the inaugural 2002 Women’s Under-19 World Championship in Edmonton.
Sinclair is a national treasure and is three international goals away from becoming the all-time leader for both men and women.
“I’m disappointed in the result, but I can’t be disappointed in how we played, everyone left everything on the field,” Sinclair said. “As a player, you can’t ask for anything more from your teammates. People left absolutely everything out there and we were just unlucky not to be able to find an equalizer, and that’s the game.”
Sinclair, Stephanie Labbe, 32, Desiree Scott, 31, Sophie Schmidt, 30, and Allysha Chapman, 30, were the 30-somethings on the team and all of their World Cup futures are in doubt. They left everything on the field and led by example throughout the tournament.
“We pride ourselves on being a tight defensive team and they hurt us on the counterattack, we got split for a second, but we felt in control for parts of the game and we knew momentum was going to shift from us to them and we just had to weather the storm,” Scott said. “We had some chances, couldn’t finish them, but this is why we play the team sport, we’re in it together ride or die, so this is tough.”
FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
As disappointing as the loss to Sweden was for Canada, in reality, the nucleus of the team is still a few years from their prime and better things are ahead for the squad.
Kadeisha Buchanan at 23 may be the best defender to ever put on a Canadian jersey. Centre back Shelina Zadorsky is 26, Ashley Lawrence, 24, Jayde Riviere, 18, Jesse Fleming, 21, Deanne Rose, 20, Jordyn Huitema, 18, Nichelle Prince, 24, Beckie, 24 and Adriana Leon, 26.
A year from now, they will be competing at the Olympics in Tokyo trying to improve on two consecutive bronze-medal finishes. In four years, they’ll get another crack at the World Cup.
While Canada is ushering out the last of a golden generation of women’s players with the impending retirement of some veterans, the program is in very good hands with perhaps another golden generation on the horizon.
“I definitely think this is a very exciting group, I think we have a lot of exciting young players who have such a bright future and definitely have many more matches in front of them,” Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said. “We had the third-youngest squad coming into this World Cup, so it’s definitely looking very bright.”
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019