This may ruffle a few Canadian feathers but I’m going to say it anyway – soccer, not hockey, is the world’s game. And Canada has never been such a major player on such a big stage.
Starting this Sunday, in Germany, the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals gets underway with two powerhouses go head-to-head. Germany (the host and the 2nd best ranked team in the world) faces off against Canada (ranked 6th in the world).
No, you did not read incorrectly – indeed I used the words Canada, soccer, and powerhouse all in the same sentence.
Unfortunately, our women’s soccer success is probably one of the best kept secrets in Canada – our women head into this World Cup as real contenders for the title, although not as favourites.
Here at home, the lead up to Germany 2011 has been disappointing thus far, but excitement seems to be building. Besides the handful of news stories from selected news outlets, the general Canadian public is unaware of Canada’s potential in Germany. If past behaviour is an indication of actions in the future, then recent results show that Canada is more than ready to face the big teams in Germany.
Let’s break this down.
Here is a list of the teams Canada has beaten in the last year of play (and their world ranking in brackets): Sweden (5th), England (10th), Netherlands (14th), China (15th), and Mexico (22nd).
Our Canadian women have also recently tied Brazil – the best ranked team in the world, and lost to the USA (ranked 2nd in the world) by a tight score of 2-1.
Traditionally, Canada has trained for internationally competitions in Canada, where games against some of the games best teams were few and far between. However, since Carolina Morace (the well-respected Italian coach) has taken over, our Canadians have been training and playing in Europe.
This means that there have been fewer personal distractions for the players, and our women have been able to compete against some of Europe’s best teams.
Should I also mention that in 2011, Canada sports a 10-2-1 record and are the reigning CONCACAF champions?
Achieving a positive result this World Cup won’t be easy. Since 1999, three teams have dominated the sport: Germany (champions in 2003 and 2007), Brazil (3rd place in 2003 and runners-up in 2007), and the USA (champions in 1999 and 3rd place in 2003 and in 2007).
Needless to say, in order for Canada to make some noise this tournament, they will likely have to get passed one of these three teams. And the journey begins this Sunday versus Germany.
Sadly, the downtown cores of Canada’s major cities won’t be swarmed with passionate soccer fans, like they are during the men’s World Cup competitions, but I truly believe that during the next four weeks, more and more Canadians will slowly become captivated, engaged, and excited.
So, to our lady Canucks in Germany: Good luck in your efforts to make Canadian soccer history!
On a personal note: a huge shout out to Melissa Tancredi (#14), we are watching back at home and cheering you on!
Here is a link to the entire tournament schedule.
Note: the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup will be played in Canada.