Author Archives: Lissa Tan

About Lissa Tan

A women's soccer fan from Toronto who's pursuing a career in urban development. I also like comfy hoodies and iced tea.

CanWNT announces Four Nations Tournament roster

The Canadian Women’s National Team is kicking off the 2013 season with the Yongchuan Cup – Four Nations Women’s Tournament. Head coach John Herdman selected a 21-player travel roster, announced Friday afternoon. Players will travel to China on Sunday, January 6.

Similar to the December 2012 camp, Herdman is integrating a number of younger players into the senior team set-up in strategizing a possession-focused tactical shift. He told media, “We are trying to achieve a style of play and performance that the country can really enjoy and be proud of. We have identified some gaps in our performances and we need to begin exploring the changes that will allow us to close those gaps”.

More specifically, Herdman wants the team to “improve our width in attack; possession; ability to control a game”.

The roster is led by 12 players from last summer’s Olympic bronze medal winning team. Notably absent is forward Melissa Tancredi, who is focusing on completing chiropractic college in St. Louis, Missouri. Captain Christine Sinclair is training and traveling with the team, but not competing as she will be serving part of her four-game suspension.

Among the seven uncapped players are youngsters Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence and Nichelle Prince of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 team; Adriana Leon, Christabel Oduro and Shelina Zadorsky, who represented Canada at the  FIFA U-20 WWC Japan 2012; and Tiffany Cameron from the FIFA U-17 WWC New Zealand 2008 team.

Herdman is adamant that style and personnel changes are a necessary means to an end of establishing the desired style of play of Canada, currently the FIFA ranked 7th best team in the world. “We need to take a step back from winning in the immediate. We need to focus on evolving our footy DNA”. Herdman believes that Canada has the talent to compete against the top teams in the world, but the numbers of such players need to grow.

Staged at the Yongchuan Olympic Centre from January 12-16, the round-robin Four Nations Tournament features hosts China, along with Canada, South Korea and Norway.

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Top Ten CanWNT Related Moments of 2012

2012 can be looked back upon as a marquee year for the Canadian Women’s National Team. What began with tempered expectations of the team’s potential success as a result of their ill fated 2011 Women’s World Cup exploded into media and fan frenzy as the nation was captured by their valiant Olympic semi-final battle with the United States. A bronze medal later, the team’s earned new found supporters, praises and accolades, and have made a steady stream of public appearances.

Let’s revisit some of the biggest moments of the past year.

#10: A bevy of post-Olympic appearances

Players have been busy since the summer making appearances at various events. Whether it’s for being interviewed or honoured, or signing autographs, or promoting products or the sport, we can agree that it’s nice seeing them getting more attention.

For instance, Karina LeBlanc has been making regular appearances on CityTV Vancouver’s Breakfast Television doing Bachelor Canada recaps. LeBlanc, Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt recently chatted with BT with a quick mention of a documentary that the team is filming. Sinclair currently has a television commercial for Tide Sport playing nationwide and is being featured in Nike promotional materials. Players have also been making appearances at Canadian Olympic Committee events, charity events and soccer clinics across the country.

And, thanks to social media, a number of boundlessly entertaining memes and multi-media came to fruition throughout 2012. On Twitter, there were popular hashtags like #NorwegianRef and #SinclairDay (not to forget Chuck Norris “facts” from the 2011 WWC); Diana Matheson finally opened a Twitter account (@dmatheson8) and graced the world with her banter and sense of humour. Via YouTube, more evidence of Sophie Moments (i.e. moments when Schmidt trips or does something silly) came to light. The bronze medal game itself produced a number of powerful images of hugs, pure bliss and medal glory.

#9: British Columbia loses two W-League teams

If there was a Canadian club team that you’d dub as having one of the biggest impacts on the CanWNT, it might just be the Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL W-League. However, on December 7, the Whitecaps announced that they wouldn’t field a team for the 2013 season, citing the formation of the new professional league in the US as a major factor behind the decision. It appears that the Whitecaps had interest in joining the new league, “but president Bob Lenarduzzi said the timing wasn’t right”.

Since their inaugural season in 2001, then known as the Vancouver Breakers, the Whitecaps women went to win two league titles (2004 and 2006) while fielding high caliber players and developing Canadian talent, including 14 of the 21 players on the 2012 Olympic squad.

To compound the loss, the Victoria Highlanders announced on December 20 that they too would be pulling out of the 2013 W-League season, although remaining in the lower tier Pacific Coast Soccer League. Founded in 2010, the Highlanders featured a number of local talent, such as Stephanie Parker, Lindsay Hoetzel, Shannon Elder, Nathalie Scharf among others from the University of Victoria Vikes.

With the demise of the western Canadian teams (and roster spots for young players), the remaining W-League clubs in the country are concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, including the Hamilton FC Rage, Laval Coments, London Gryphons, Ottawa Fury, Quebec City Amiral and Toronto Lady Lynx.

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Sinclair suspended 4 games & fined $3,500 by FIFA

More than two months after the notorious Olympic semi-final match between Canada and the United States, FIFA is issuing a 4 game suspension and $3,500 fine to Christine Sinclair.

The 29-year-old CanWNT captain was sanctioned by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee for “displaying unsporting behaviour”. During post-match interviews for the 4-3 loss to the Americans, Sinclair questioned the refereeing of Norway’s Christiana Pedersen. Sinclair was quoted saying:

Obviously, we’re disappointed and upset. We felt that the referee took it away from us, so, yes, we are disappointed. We feel like we didn’t lose, we feel like it was taken from us. It’s a shame in a game like that, which is so important, that the ref decided the result before the game started.

Canada had been leading the semi-final 3-2 thanks to a Sinclair hattrick. In the 78th minute, Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was whistled on an extremely rare 6-second rule. According to Pedersen, McLeod was taking longer than 6 seconds to release the ball upon this and previous goal kicks.

The resulting US free kick at the top of the box ricocheted off the arm of defender Marie-Eve Nault (some fans have argued that this instance was ball-to-arm, not arm-to-ball, i.e. unintentional). A penalty kick was subsequently awarded, which Abby Wambach buried to tie the match and force overtime.

A number of other questionable (non)calls were made during the match. Some fans would argue that Pedersen missed a PK for Canada when the ball struck the arm of US midfielder Megan Rapinoe in the second half. US goalkeeper Hope Solo, too, held the ball for more than 6-seconds on several occasions. Both squads were overtly physical, which should have warranted more cards being handed out to keep the match under control; Canada received the only 2 yellow cards issued. Canadian striker Melissa Tancredi appeared to have “stomped” on the head of Carli Lloyd, an allegation that Tancredi denies.

The US went on to win Olympic gold against Japan, while Canada took bronze over France.

The severity of Sinclair’s punishment is being compared relative to the 2-match ban of Colombia’s Lady Andrade, who punched Wambach in the face during an Olympic group match.

Sinclair is expected to address media on Monday regarding the suspension and fine.

Based on the FIFA Disciplinary Code tweeted by Jason deVos, since Canada is hosting the next Women’s World Cup and are not required to play in qualifying, Sinclair will serve the suspension during any upcoming friendlies.

As announced by the Canadian Soccer Association, “No further information will be available from the Canadian Soccer Association or media interviews granted on this decision until such time as those reasons for judgement are received and reviewed by the Canadian Soccer Association.”

In other news, the CanWNT are nominated for Yahoo! Canada’s The Big Buzz Awards for Big Buzz Story of the Year and Sinclair for Buzziest Canadian. Click here to vote. Also, the team will return to camp in December in Vancouver.

[Oct 15 update: The Canadian Soccer Association will pay for Sinclair’s $3,500 fine. She’ll serve her suspension when Canada competes at China’s Four Nation’s Tournament in January. However, if Canada makes an early exit from the tournament, then it’ll spill into the Cyprus Cup in March.

The punishment handed down by FIFA wasn’t for Sinclair’s post-match comments to media, but for comments she allegedly made directly to Pedersen immediately following the match. During Monday’s conference call, Sinclair said, “I’d like to acknowledge FIFA’s decision and it is my intent to accept it… As a player, you just want to move on as well as I want my team to move on.”]

Interview with Kara Lang: Being inspired by Street Soccer Canada


Canada's 2011 Women's Homeless World Cup Team. This image is courtesy of Paul Gregory and Street Soccer Canada.

I spoke to Kara Lang in April about Street Soccer Canada for a project outside of AllWhiteKit and RedNationOnline. Upon the eve of the 10th Annual Homeless World Cup in Mexico City October 6-14, it’s a perfect time to revisit her insight on the women’s program in Toronto. Here’s a condensed version of the conversation.

Since September 2011, weekly indoor soccer matches in a western Toronto recreation centre have become a solace for women living in the local shelter system. They are some of the most marginalized individuals in the city, battling poverty, mental health concerns, various forms of addictions and abuse, and/or other socioeconomic effects. In spite of their circumstances, they’ve developed a familial bond with fellow players brought together by Street Soccer Canada (SSC), “a grassroots program with sport as social inclusion as its focus. Its aim is to engage and connect with marginalized shelter users and individuals that have been isolated and are on the fringes, using the positive power of sport to enrich and empower.”

Paul Gregory, who founded SSC in 2003, meshed his interest in soccer with his 16 years of experience in the public and non-profit sectors tackling issues of homelessness and poverty. What started with a men’s team that later represented Canada at the 2004 Homeless World Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden now has programs in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, in addition to women’s teams in the latter two cities.

Among the coaches in Toronto is Kara Lang, a nine year veteran of the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team, who is also the SSC technical director. Following a successful national team career that includes representing her country at the 2003 and 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cups and 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kara is currently a soccer analyst at Rogers Media Inc. and passionately volunteers her time with SSC.

Melissa Tan: How are the sessions going?
Kara Lang: It’s a little bit tough because we have to depend on the holiday schedule of the community centre. For the most part, other than Christmas, New Years and Easter, we’ve been every Mondays since September [2011]. We’ll run a session whether it’s one person that shows up or eight or whatever.

MT: Do you usually start off with drills and then head into a recreational game?
KL: Mhmm, it’s always a bit of a warmup. A lot of the women aren’t physically active at all throughout the week, or some of them had never been physically active before, certainly not any part of an organized team. We’re trying to get them into certain habits of being healthy and safe. They get warmed up, then some drills, some first touch. We work on whatever they want to work on.

A lot of the time it’s finishing that they like to do; they like to shoot. We usually put Billy in net, he’s the men’s team coach; they love shooting on Billy. He’s quite the trash talker, too, so it makes for a lot of fun.

Then we divide up the teams depending on numbers and we just play a scrimmage for an hour, hour and a half. We always have to be cautious to take breaks because everyone’s at different fitness levels and some of the women’s health isn’t the best. When one person needs a break, everyone needs a break. We’re trying to instill that idea of team, which is also new for a lot of the women. It’s basically two hours of fun, two hours of freedom.

MT: It’s like there are two parts to the equation: trying to instill healthy habits in their daily lives and also building trust because it’s difficult to break down their personal barriers.
KL: Absolutely, there’s a huge difference between the first few sessions and now where the women are totally comfortable with us and talking about their outside lives and sharing their stories with us. And, accepting advice from us even about soccer.

In terms of healthy habits outside, for some of them it’s not just that one day a week anymore. It was only a few weeks ago when some of them were asking to take some soccer balls home to go to the park and train on their own. They want to get better, especially with those who haven’t played before; it’s that learning curve that they’ve seen and how quickly they’ve started to get the hang of it. Then they just wanted more and wanted to get better. They’re goal setting and recognizing that they’re good at something that can be fun. I think for a lot of them, it’s extremely encouraging.

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2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Host Cities

The Hon. Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport) and Joseph Blatter, FIFA President

The Hon. Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport) and Joseph Blatter, FIFA President. Photo by the Canadian Soccer Association

The six 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada official host cities were announced May 4th, including Edmonton, AB (Commonwealth Stadium); Moncton, NB (Stade Moncton 2010); Montreal, QC (Saputo Stadium); Ottawa, ON (Frank Clair Stadium); Vancouver, BC (BC Place) and Winnipeg, MB (Investors Group Field).

The inaugural WWC in China 1991 featured 12 teams. After expanding to 16 teams and 32 matches for USA 1999, Canada will be first to host 24 teams in a 52 match schedule.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter spoke at the press conference in Parliament Hill and boasted that the 2015 WWC will be the “biggest international event for Canada, even [compared] to the Olympics.”

Seven cities were included in the initial bid process, but Halifax opted out in March due to funding issues related to building a new stadium. Three years prior, the City of Halifax announced a $100,000 feasibility study of the proposed project.

Toronto, on the other hand, will not host due to 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games commitments, which were awarded to the city in 2009, two years prior to the WWC bid submission. The PanAms will run from July 10-26, which overlaps with the WWC’s expected mid-June to mid-July schedule. Local stakeholders, such as Tourism Toronto, elected not to submit a WWC bid.

The press conference was hosted by former Canadian Women’s National Team member Kara Lang, and Canadian Soccer Association Long-Term Player Development Manager and former WNT coach Sylvie Béliveau. They spoke about the impact of hosting a WWC on boy’s and girls’ youth soccer.

FIFA reports that 29 million women and girls around the world play soccer, including 350,000 in Canada.

“It’s beneficial for [soccer] in Canada to spread the game from coast-to-coast, the first time that it’s ever happened,” said Jason de Vos from TSN studios in Toronto. “If you spread [the matches] from coast to coast, you give young players from around the country an opportunity to see live international football, the best players in the women’s game on Canadian soil.”

In 2011, TSN became the official Canadian broadcaster of FIFA soccer (rights from 2015 to 2022). Broadcasting rights were held in previous years by CBC.

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Three Spring Friendlies Announced for Canada, New Umbro Kits & U-20 WWC Berth

Photo by the Canadian Soccer Association

International Friendlies

Three friendlies, including one at home, have been announced as a part of the Canadian Women’s National Team’s preparations for the 2012 London Olympics.

Canada will face Brazil on neutral grounds March 24 in Foxborough, Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium, home of MLS’ New England Revolution. The venue seems like an improbable choice given the cost and the Revolution’s 4PM ET home opener against the Portland Timbers, but all has been confirmed.

Since July 2008, Canada and Brazil have drawn in their last five matches. On two of those occasions Canada claimed championship titles, first, as goal differentials at the 2010 Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo were in Canada’s favour. It was this memorable stunner by Christine Sinclair that sealed the title. Then, at the 2011 Pan American Games, a 1-1 tie in regulation was finally settled in penalty kicks with Canada taking it 4-3.

Canada and Sweden will then meet March 31 at 2PM local time in Malmö, Sweden. This past week, Sweden finished in fourth place at the Algarve Cup in Portugal following a 4-0 loss to the USA. In Canada and Sweden’s most recent matches against one another, each side has won three. Their latest encounter was a 2-1 friendly win by Canada November 22, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Canada will host China May 30 at Stade Moncton 2010 Stadium in Moncton, New Brunswick, which is a potential host venue for the 2014 FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Canada/China friendly will kick-off at 8PM local time, 9PM ET. Ticket sales and other details will be announced in early April.

The match against China marks the first home friendly since September 30, 2010 when Canada posted a 3-1 victory at BMO Field in Toronto, which was also against China. Canada most recently played six competitive matches at home in Vancouver, British Columbia during the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifiers.

As noted by the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), it just so happens that all three opponents in this series of friendlies have been runner-ups at the FIFA Women’s World Cup (China – 1999, Sweden – 2003 and Brazil – 2007).

In between friendlies, a portion of the CanWNT will be in residency camp for two weeks in Vancouver from April 13 to 27. Players who have signed with clubs will remain with their respective teams while only unattached players will be in camp.

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The CanWNT Year in Review

For better or for worse, many things happened over the course of 2011 for the Canadian Women’s National Team. Let’s take a look at what transpired:

Kara Lang’s Retirement

A promising career came to an end when Kara Lang announced her retirement from club and international soccer [watch here] on January 5. The then 24 year-old had suffered two ACL tears in her right knee, first in 2006 and again in 2009. Lang weighed her options for managing the pain in her knee in order to continue playing, but the ultimate decision was the best choice for her long-term health as knee replacement surgery, a lifetime of arthritis and continual use of anti-inflammatory drugs were potential aspects of her future.

Arguably one of the most well known figures of the CanWNT, Lang initially gained recognition as a 15 year-old on Canada’s U-19 Women’s World Cup team that finished in second place in 2002 and as the youngest player to suit up for the senior national team. She went on to represent Canada at the 2003 Women’s World Cup where they achieved their best ever result finishing fourth overall, as well as at the 2007 WWC and the WNT’s first Olympic appearance in Beijing 2008. With her apt for scoring goals from distance, the midfielder/striker rounded out her career with 34 goals in 92 caps.

Lang continues to have an active post-soccer career. She’s appeared as an analyst on Rogers Sportsnet for the 2011 WWC and hosts Rogers TV’s Your World This Week. Lang is also a yoga instructor at Shunyata Yoga, while being the Technical Director of Street Soccer Canada and coaching Toronto’s Street Soccer women’s team.

All White Kit caught up with Lang in August as she helped to raise money for Athletes for Africa’s Rock the Pitch Charity Soccer Tournament.

Yongchuan Cup Four Nations Tournament

The 2011 season began in China January 21-25. Late heroics by a tandem of veteran strikers made Canada’s opening match against the host country one of the most exciting of the year. After trailing by 2 goals through the first 45 minutes, Melissa Tancredi cut the score in half in the 56′ before assisting Sinclair’s equalizer in the 80′. The duo combined again in the 94′ for the game winner by Sinclair.

In the following game, the CanWNT’s 11 game unbeaten streak (9 wins, 2 draws) came to an end with a 2-1 loss to the USWNT. Lauren Cheney opened the scoring in the 54′ while Tancredi answered back just two minutes later. Lindsay Tarpley’s goal in the 71′ would prove to be the difference maker [watch here].

The tournament concluded against Sweden where Sinclair proved that she’s gotten leaner and faster within the past couple of years. Latching on to a clearing header by Emily Zurrer, Sinclair outran three Swedish defenders to slot in her third goal of the tournament [watch here]. With Canada and the US tied in wins, the latter was awarded first place for holding the head-to-head advantage, while Sinclair claimed the MVP award.

Carolina Morace vs. the CSA: Round 1

Well, on the bright side, at least this bit of news appeared on the front page of The Globe & Mail’s sports section, right?

On February 4, Carolina Morace announced her intentions to resign as head coach of the CanWNT upon the conclusion of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, citing differences in her vision for the program from that of the Canadian Soccer Association’s. One such disagreement stemmed from Morace’s desire for greater budgetary control.

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My 2012 (Mostly) CanWNT Wish List

1) More good memories from London 2012 and beyond

The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup provided a slew of memorable moments. For Canadians, the highlight was probably watching Christine Sinclair break her nose, refuse medical attention, then continue to play and score a stunning free kick goal [watch here] to snap Germany’s 622-minute WWC shutout streak that stood since the 2003 edition of the tournament. (The clip even made it on to “The most indelible televised sports images of 2011” list).

Somehow, the 2-1 loss to Germany felt like a glorious victory. In the four days that followed the opening match and preceded Canada’s second game against France, the Internet was set abuzz with fans expressing unprecedented belief in and support for the team. Canada stood their ground for a close match against the all mighty Germans so, in our eyes, anything from hereon in was possible. That, coupled with Canada’s winning ways in the lead up to the tournament, made the team seem like a worthy contender for the coveted trophy.

The hashtag #ChristineSinclair began trending on Twitter, even when it wasn’t game day, and Chuck Norris had to step aside as Sinclair took the spotlight with her Zorro mask. What’s not to love when it comes to:

  • If #ChristineSinclair passed you the ball, you would put it on your resume (@Gregair13)
  • #Christine Sinclair can’t go within 500 meters of a pool. She hates diving that much (@cdnsoccerblog)
  • The Oxford English Dictionary is changing the spelling of the word “legendary” to S-I-N-C-L-A-I-R (@page1of1)
  • Christine Sinclair can punch a Cyclops between the eyes (@Kim_Notorious)

As fans blissfully rallied around the team, national news outlets like The Globe and Mail pumped us up with headlines that read, “Christine Sinclair enters pantheon of Canadian sporting icons,” while the soccer section of their website featured not one, not two, but seven items at once related to Sinclair and the CanWNT.

Needless to say, things eventually fell apart… badly.

However brief that sense of utter perfection may have been, those precious four days gave fans everything they could possibly want when it came to media coverage and a sense of national pride and renewed confidence in our team. As national team fans, we can savour the glory that surrounded events like the 2002 FIFA U-19 WWC and that brief moment from Germany 2011 and hope to create new hype, new belief and a new generation of fans with London 2012 and into the future with Canada’s 2014 U-20 WWC, 2015 WWC and Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

Who doesn’t want to experience this kind of atmosphere at a Canadian soccer match again and again? Canada vs. Brazil FIFA U-19 Edmonton and USA vs. Canada FIFA U-19 Championship Stadium Entry and National Anthems (Thanks for the links, Jenna!)

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The CanWNT Announces Olympic Qualifying Roster

With approximately one month until the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifiers kicks off in Vancouver, B.C., the Canadian Women’s National Team announced their 20-player roster earlier this week.

Head coach John Herdman retains a core group of players who have anchored the team for the past several years, including 16 players who suited up for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 14 who brought home Pan American gold in October. The veteran experience matters, but it’s also “about picking the players that would be performing the best at that time” given the must-win situation having to place in the top two of the tournament in order to qualify for next year’s London Olympics.

Herdman admitted that Qualifiers isn’t “one of those events where you can start testing and developing players,” but 21 year-old Chelsea Buckland was impressive enough during November’s training camp to earn a roster spot for her first Senior National Team competition. “She moves well, the timing of her movement is good and she reads the game well,” Herdman said of the redshirt junior from Oregon State University.

Rutgers University’s Amélia Pietrangelo, 18, and University of Iowa’s Alyscha Mottershead, 20, were both on the cusp of making the final roster. Herdman described Pietrangelo’s situation as “pretty unlucky not to have been named to the squad,” and added that Mottershead “is another who’s shown some aptitude at this level.”

Perhaps the most surprising omission from the roster is centre back Emily Zurrer. Despite her youth, the 24 year-old University of Illinois graduate recently earned her 50th cap in November’s friendly against Sweden. Herdman said the cut was “a tough decision… She’s been a key player in the Canadian setup for the last few years. Mentally and emotionally, for her and for the team, it’s been a tough call.”

Injuries have stalled the hopes of competing at Olympic Qualifying for two players. Left back Marie-Eve Nault trained with the team in December after returning from surgery in the fall, but didn’t make the final roster. Jonelle Filigno strained her right Achilles’ tendon in September when Rutgers University hosted Villanova. The striker underwent surgery earlier this month.

Herdman maintains that Olympic roster spots, should Canada qualify, remain open to any such players who are currently on the outside looking in. He described the Olympic Qualifying roster as a “short-term decision” and expects everyone to compete in the coming months.

The CanWNT (and fans, for that matter) can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Diana Matheson is back in the fold. The ever industrious midfielder had surgery in November for an “ongoing problem” that had worsened over the course of 2011. Herdman admitted that Matheson’s recovery time will be “tight”, but he hopes that the medical team will have her fit and ready for the start of the tournament.

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Canada Brings Home Pan American Gold

Mexsport; CSA

That title has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The Canadian Women’s National Team captured the top prize at the XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico by defeating Brazil in dramatic fashion. Following a come-from-behind 1-1 draw in regulation and a scoreless overtime, Canada struck gold with penalty kicks, 4-3.

Twenty year-old Debora opened the scoring just 4 minutes into the match. The Brazilian striker headed towards three Canadian defenders and was given an excess of space to dribble up field before unleashing a top corner beauty from outside the box.

Canada was able to stay in the game thanks to a series of critical saves by Karina LeBlanc, especially late in regulation time when Brazil began peppering the Canadian net. Brazil outshot Canada 22-13, while Canada maintained 57% of possession.

As the clock ticked away, it appeared that Brazil was on its way to claiming another PanAm gold medal. However, like the 2011 Women’s World Cup quarter-finals against the USA, Brazil was undone late in the game by an equalizer off a header. This time it was at the mercy of Christine Sinclair being her usual clutch self. Canada won a corner kick in the 88th minute and Diana Matheson sent in a perfectly struck ball. Sinclair circled around goalkeeper Barbara to head it in with ease and forced the game into overtime.

But 30 minutes was not enough to break the deadlock between the teams, so the dreaded, heart wrenching penalty kicks were to settle the score.

Matheson converted the first Canadian PK with confidence, as did Francielle for Brazil. Upon the second round, Barbara was in a rage when she got a glove on Sinclair’s shot, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out of the net. Maurine and Melanie Booth were both successful in their respective shots from the mark. Canada took the lead following Brazil’s third PK when Grazielle placed her attempt up the middle for an easy stop by LeBlanc. Sophie Schmidt put Canada ahead once again and Ketlen answered back. It was 4-3 heading into the fifth set of PKs; things got momentarily tense for Canada while Brazil saw a glimmer of hope when Candace Chapman’s strike rattled the right sided post. The next kicker, Debora, had an opportunity to play hero for Brazil once again if she could tie up the results, but LeBlanc guessed the right direction to make her second PK save and secure first place.

Watch highlights of the final, Canada vs. Brazil, Brazil’s medal ceremony, Canada celebrating the win and the gold medal ceremony.

The win marks Canada’s first PanAm gold in women’s soccer, and John Herdman’s first tournament win since taking over the team in September. Canada previusly claimed fourth (1999), second (2003) and third place (2007) since the sport was included in the PanAm Games 12 years earlier. Brazil had won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2007, and with the absence of any US team, it appeared to be theirs for the taking. Alas, it was yet another second place finish (see: the Women’s World Cup, Olympic Games and Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo).

2015 will be a marquee year for the Canadian Women’s National Team with the Women’s World Cup being staged across Canada from June 26-July 17 and PanAm Toronto July 10-26. The overlap makes it highly unlikely that the senior team will be able to defend their title as the reigning PanAm Women’s Soccer champions. But with that aside, the build up in the next 4 years will be exciting times for the sport in the country. Whether it’ll be about seeking World Cup redemption or potentially instilling confidence in our youth team to represent us at the PanAms in place of the full squad, it’s all taking place in Canada. There’s no better feeling than playing (and winning) on home soil, right?

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