The ultimate triumph of claiming a World Cup on home soil has ended, and yet you get the feeling that the dreaming has just begun.
Canadian head coach John Herdman, fielded a starting XI with an average age of 28, with five of those players over the age of 30 (Lauren Sesselmann, Christine Sinclair, Erin McLeod, Melissa Tancredi and Rhian Wilkinson), during their quarter-final loss against England on Saturday.
This will be the last kick at the can for many of those players, who have dutifully served their country well over the years, while the young-talent Canada has fielded for this tournament leaves us with great hopes.
19-year-old defender Kadeisha Buchanan is as solid of a defender as they come, showing her fearlessness in getting stuck into tackles, cleaning up any messes created at the back. Much has been said about her play since the first game at Commonwealth and for good reason. Believe the hype, she’s a name we’ll be hearing lots of over the next few years.
In midfield, 20-year-old Ashley Lawrence has showed her ability to turn away from defenders with the ball and push the pace of play forward. Her capability of being able to retain possession of the ball, while being a legit scoring threat will be the heart of the Canadian midfield for years to come. Where Canada lacked that last bit of quality to break down their opposition, Lawrence can potentially solve that. Christine Sinclair’s goal against England doesn’t happen without the contribution of Lawrence.
In attack, Adriana Leon provided a much needed spark late in Saturday’s match, during Canada’s attempt to find an equalizer. The 22-year-old forward was able to provide more going forward in her 20 minutes of action than Melissa Tancredi was able to muster in her 70 minutes against England. Leon’s pace and control is going to be a key component of Canada’s attack moving forward.
And John Herdman is the perfect man to lead this team.
In all the years that Canada has competed on the world stage, attempting to crack soccer’s code of success, there hasn’t been a coach that has believed in the national team or this country as much as Herdman.
You can see the pride that he has for the program ooze out of him during every match. Just watch his reactions on the sidelines and his interactions with the players. Any type of celebration usually revolves around him.
“This is a real football country, women’s football country,” said Herdman during an emotional post-game conference. “I don’t care what the result is tonight, but those fans showed everyone around the world how to support the women’s game.
“Our country got behind us. They’ve had a great time and there’s going to be a new generation of women, players, coaches that will be motivated by what they’ve seen from our players, from our staff to get out and play, to get up and coach, to get up and volunteer.
“We’re in a great place as a team and you can see the youth is just on the horizon.”
As Canada’s young players begin to transition into the spotlight, under the guidance of Herdman, we’ll see a team built on keeping possession of ball and playing their way up the field, rather than have their defenders attempt to heave balls forward in an attempt to get in behind the opposition back-line. We saw a mix of two styles against England, but as youth come through the system you can bet that will change.
However, what’s most important to the successes of Canada’s national soccer teams is continued support from the nation. The women’s team have captured the hearts of the country on two separate occasions now, the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 World Cup, but within that three year gap they were lost.
World tournaments are always successful in bringing about enthusiast support, but the fans are the ones that can help make that last. Let’s hope that between now and the Olympics next year in Brazil, the support doesn’t fizzle out.
John Herdman will live and die with this team, will the rest of the nation?