A packed BC Place Stadium of 53,855 were on hand Sunday to witness the Canadian women’s soccer team fight for a spot in the quarter-finals of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
When was the last time we could say that a crowd of any number remotely close to Sunday’s Round of 16 match gathered to watch a soccer game in this country, prior to this tournament?
— FIFA Women’sWorldCup (@FIFAWWC) June 22, 2015
The interest of Canadian soccer has never been higher in this country and we have Canada’s women’s team to thank for it.
It was in 2012 at the London Olympics when a team led by Christine Sinclair and the recently appointed head coach John Herdman, who were coming off of a gold medal winning performance at the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico, captured the hearts of the nation with their resilient play in earning a bronze medal.
That was the tournament that cemented Sinclair as a legend of the world game, scoring a hat-trick in that unforgettable semi-final match against the Americans, after first really grasping the country’s attention with her free-kick goal against the Germans during the World Cup the year before.
There was finally a reason for the average Canadian to be optimistic about the viability of the world’s game within our hockey-crazed confines.
Before the start of this year’s tournament, some said that Canada could win it, some believed they weren’t strong enough, while others combined the two opinions and concluded that there was a chance. While we progress through the knockout fixtures, a chance is what the Canadians have been given.
After progressing into the quarter-finals of the World Cup, we are now past the point in the tournament that could set all the momentum the national program has gained, since London 2012, back into the pre-Olympic years and deem this effort a success. Everything from here on in is a bonus.
Regardless of of the outcome, reaching the quarter-final stages of a World Cup tournament on home soil for any team is a major accomplishment, let alone a team that is still shy of being a world dubbed a world power.
Yet, there is still a chance to do something special.
Canada has never advanced past the semi-finals of a World Cup, last reaching the mark in 2003, losing out to Sweden. Prior to Sunday’s win over Switzerland, they had never beaten a European nation at a World Cup tournament and now they are well on their way to possibly beating another one as they will face the winner of either Norway vs. England in the semi-finals.
For this team, it’s now about how far they can take this. That’s what people will remember in the years to come. It won’t matter how many goals they scored in the tournament or how well they played in each game. The end result is what people will look back on.
Think back to London 2012 and ask how many remember that Canada finished third in Group F, squeezing into the knockout rounds?
All that remains are the memories of a semi-final loss and a bronze medal triumph.
With another expected large crowd to cheer them on this coming weekend, the stage is set.
It’s how you end a tournament that will remain etched into the minds of a nation.