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Canada unable to overcome ‘ruthless’ Australian team at Women’s World Cup

Monday marked the end of the road for the Canadian team at the Women’s World Cup. Australia’s Matildas came out blazing, not waltzing, and solidified their qualification to the next round. Along with Australia, Nigeria’s Super Falcons also move on with the Canadians in third place in Group B. 

The sounds of Melbourne’s Rectangular Stadium that had 27,706 pro-Australia spectators, coupled with the pressure of the match, was enough to motivate the Matildas to show up and work at a level to which Canada tried to match but could not. It’s hard to believe that this is most likely Canadian captain Christine Sinclair’s last World Cup.

It is indeed veteran Sophie Schmidt’s final game with the team as she previously announced she would retire following the tournament.

Invariably momentum was on the side of the co-hosts. A goal from Hayley Raso in the ninth minute set a tone to which the Canadians could not catch up.

“Listen, football can be cruel sometimes and tonight it was cruel,” Canadian coach Bev Priestman stated afterward. “We got punished. We [let in] an early goal and the team lacked belief.”

Priestman said credit should go to Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson and his team’s preparation.

“Australia were the better team tonight,” Priestman said. “These moments are hard and harsh, but there are the moments that make you. And it hurts like hell now, but we’ll learn.” 

What Priestman did not do is lay blame at the feet of Canada Soccer, the national sport federation the team had battled in recent labor negotiations, a sentiment echoed by several players in the mixed zone. Canadian supporters might be critical of the federation, but when asked about whether the ongoing issues might be a cause in the loss, Sinclair dismissed the notion.

“We’ve been battling our federation for support but I can’t put this [loss] on [Canada Soccer],” Sinclair said. “We’re 23 players and staff and we didn’t get it done tonight. More of it is a wake-up call for our federation, the lack of a professional league [in Canada], the lack of support for youth national teams, I think you’re just going to continue to see teams reach our level, surpass us, whatever you want to call it, if things don’t change.”

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan echoed that sentiment.

This match truly seemed to be the climax of the dreaded “Group of Death,” in which stellar and deserving teams faced each other. This match was no exception. The competition in Group B killed any dreams of victory for Canada at the biggest tournament for women’s football and what might have been the 40-year-old Sinclair’s last opportunity to hoist the trophy.

This journey has not been easy for the team of red and white. They have battled, they have shown their grit, but the vision and the determination of the Matildas was too much.

A sea of yellow and green erupted during the opening minutes of what some considered the most important match in Australian football since 2005 when the Socceroos (the men’s side) played Uruguay and qualified for the 2006 Men’s World Cup in Germany.

Canadian fans had been out-numbered in their previous games versus Nigeria and Ireland, so surely they could manage this, right? But from the get-go, the pace was different and something felt uneasy. Canada could not seem to capitalize on the set pieces they had in the first half despite having 55 per cent of the possession.

At the same time, Nigeria was playing Ireland in the other Group B game, which was undoubtedly adding stress to Canadians.

Steve Carr

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