There are moments when rational discussion of the game is next to impossible.
Like the moment after watching Canada—CANADA!—win a medal at a major senior national team tournament. Once Diana Matheson side-footed the ball into the open net to give Canada it’s first team medal since before the Second World War, the opportunity for sober reflection was gone. Rather it was time to scream, cry and dream.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter who had the most possession, who created the most scoring chances and even who is the better team. On days like today it only matters who scored the most goals.
Canada scored one. France none. Bronze for the Canucks. It feels like gold.
Not just because it’s a medal and a remarkable turn around from not just last summer’s World Cup, but also because of the attention the team has received since the start. This is page A1 stuff across the country. The Canadian women’s soccer team are undoubtedly the stars of the Olympic games for Canada. Christine Sinclair is a household name and the runaway favourite to carry the Canadian flag at the closing ceremony. There is a good chance she’ll be named the Canadian athlete of the year come December. Dare we suggest that a Ballon d’Or might even be on the table?
There are other heroes, of course. Diana Matheson, likely the most underrated player on the team, will now be talked about in the same sentence as Paul Henderson, Sidney Crosby and—in Canadian soccer circles—Richard Hastings. She scored the most important goal in Canadian soccer since 1985.
Desiree Scott was the engine that the seasoned football fan could appreciate most, a symbol of the difference between John Herdman’s Canada and Carolina Morace’s.
Herdman, too, has joined the public conversation. In a country of immigrants, the sight of an Englishman who came to Canada via New Zealand dropping to his knees in sincere joy in response to the result warms the heart every bit as much as knowing that a good prairie girl like Kaylyn Kyle has won a medal. All the women, really, have become part of Canadian sporting history. The narrative—plucky underdog fights the odds, gets screwed against the favoured Americans (doesn’t matter if that’s true or not—the perception is what’s important) and out-works a more skilled opponent to grab an unlikely victory at the death—is ingrained in Canadian culture. We never grow tired of the story that played out. All that was missing was the ice and a puck.
There are weaknesses in this team that will need to be addressed in the days ahead. France badly outplayed Big Red. The Americans came back to equalize again them three times in less than ninety minutes. Canada beat two teams that bookended them in the rankings (the win today being the first over a team ranked higher than them at a major event since 2003), and lost to the teams ranked above. If this team is to ever break through to the elite, they shouldn’t believe that today’s bronze is an indication that they have arrived. In 2003, there were some in the Canadian program who thought a semi-final result in the World Cup meant just that. The resulting refusal to address the shortcomings of the program likely held it back at least four years. That mistake cannot be repeated.
Comments after the game were promising. Asked by CTV if they were part of the elite now, Sinclair said, “Well, we are here.” The message was that the future was a different story, one yet untold.
Today’s story however will be told again and again over the next three years as Canada prepares to host the 2015 World Cup. As said, now is not the time to predict how it will turn out.
Today is time to celebrate an historic accomplishment that can never be taken away from Canada’s national women’s team. Today they are Canada’s golden bronze medalists.