Some brief words before I sleep and properly digest Canada’s thrilling, heart-breaking, exhilarating, maddening, extra-time 4-3 loss to the USA.
First, this was, without a doubt, one of the finest performances from a Canadian national team in the sport of football in the last half century. There was Christine Sinclair with a crucial and incredible hat-trick, a woman with, as one Tweeter mentioned, “Rocket Richard eyes.” Then there was the incredible dedication of Melissa Tancredi, the steel and courage of Desiree Scott, who refused to go off following an awful knee crunch in extra time. And there was Erin McLeod, the goalkeeper who received a lot of criticism in the group stage of this tournament, who commanded the area with precision timing and forethought (save perhaps on the US’ equalizer to make it 1-1, although she was not helped by the absence of a player on the line). Eleven women who gave us a glimpse of what this country is capable of in association football, who showed some of the dismissive doubters that Canada was the team to beat in this semifinal, and no other.
Even so when Canada led 3-2 with 15 minutes left, it seemed hardly believable, except the performance made us believe. And that would be the precise moment when reality came crashing down. Because we weren’t just playing the talented favourites in the USA—we were up against a Norwegian referee whose performance can only charitably be called a disgrace. After awarding the USA an almost never-given indirect kick after McLeod held the ball for 10 seconds (not the six stipulated in the Laws of the Game), she then proceeded to give a laughable penalty call. And, as has happened so many times before, Canada could not win the day on merit alone. As often happens, the winners were happy to gloss it over, Canadian pundits remarked on the heart of this team, how they could leave the pitch with their heads held high, and the world moved on.
The glory of a major tournament final remains on hold, for now. But few will forget how this team believed in itself once more, and showed the world that Canada could one day become a power in world football.