• Daniel Squizzato

      As a kid, Squizz spent a lot of time playing soccer, writing and getting overly excited about frivolous things. Not much has changed: he still plays (badly), he still writes (having been published in outlets such as Maclean's and The Globe & Mail) and still has plenty of irrational passion (just wait until the next time the men's national team plays against Honduras).

    • Grant Surridge

      Grant has no soccer playing career to speak of, and probably hasn't been following Canadian soccer as long as you have, but he does spend vast amounts of time reading about soccer online. A proud, self-loathing ex-Winnipeger, Grant also supports Chelsea FC. He writes about the Canadian mens' national team, as well as Canada's rivals in Central America and the Caribbean.
    • Canada 1 France 0: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

      This, folks, was the moment.

      The long-awaited moment, occasionally believed to be nothing more than a fairy tale, at which Canadian soccer (not the sport of soccer, not the global game, but Canadian soccer) would fully and irrevocably break into the mainstream sporting consciousness from coast to coast. On this Olympic stage, this team was able to capture the hearts and minds of Canadian sports fans like no one could have imagined possible.

      Canada's bronze-medal victory on Thursday morning was dramatic, unexpected, thrilling and -- if we're being honest -- horribly, horribly cruel to France, who controlled the vast majority of the game. But if it's been said once, it's been said a million times: They don't ask how, they ask how many. Canada 1, France 0 -- and the first Olympic medal in soccer for a Canadian team since 1904.

      While Christine Sinclair and Desiree Scott have been catapulted into Canadian sporting fame with their performances in this tournament, it's fitting that Diana Matheson -- a long-serving veteran whose contributions to the team for the past 10 years have made much of their success possible -- was the ultimate hero on this triumphant day.

      But Matheson's career-defining moment was, by far, not the only storyline we saw play out over this preposterous roller coaster of a two-week span for Big Red...

      Tancredi's tournament of a lifetime.
      Forget about her physical play and supposed shenanigans in the semifinal; early in the tournament, when Sinclair was seemingly at less than 100%, Tancredi found her clinical touch and potted four goals to push Canada into the knockout round. Oh, and she threw in a few quality assists along the way, just for good measure. She did make a comment suggesting that this would be her final big tournament for Canada; let's hope that's not the case, but if it is, she's certainly going out on a high note.

      Sinclair's performance of a lifetime. Not much else needs to be said here, huh? The captain -- as the true superstars do -- stepped up on the grandest stage with her hat trick against the USA that nearly dragged Big Red into the gold-medal game. She may have just earned herself a stroll around the Olympic Stadium with the Canadian flag for it.

      Desiree Scott is here. In fact, she's everywhere. Eighteen months ago, Scott was a fringe player for the national team. Now, with her unreal awareness and defensive instincts, she's fully earned her "Destroyer" nickname, for all of Canada to see. And, of course, it was her goal-line clearance against France that made Matheson's late-game heroics possible.

      The goalkeeping controversy. Some folks were surprised to see Erin McLeod get the start against Japan; others were surprised to see her then get the start against Sweden. And the surprise continued coming in when she got then nod against Great Britain in the quarterfinals. While she's a stalwart of the national team, some questionable decisions in the early games left some fans clamouring for a return of erstwhile #1 Karina LeBlanc (and wondering whether KK was, in fact, hurt). But despite the controversy and despite the uncertainty, McLeod stepped up when it mattered most, keeping a clean sheet with a medal on the line.

      The defensive crisis. Or was it? It's not often that a team loses not one, not two, but three central defenders over the course of a tournament, and still go on to have success. But Canada weathered the storm of in-game injuries to Candace Chapman and Robyn Gayle and a pre-tournament knock to Emily Zurrer with massive contributions from the patchwork CB duo of Carmelina Moscato and Lauren Sesselmann.

      John Herdman: Magic maker. It seems so long ago now that Canada finished dead last at the Women's World Cup -- but it really was just one year ago. Seriously, check the calendar. Head coach John Herdman, in the intervening time, brought the team a gold at the Pan Am Games, a silver at the Cyprus Cup and a bronze at the Olympics. He promised the team would be mentally prepared for London 2012: they delivered. He promised the team would shoot for the podium: they delivered. Working with essentially the same roster as the team had at WWC2011 (the biggest changes being Scott's increased role and Sesselmann joining the team), he's been able to craft a truly remarkable turnaround that will likely have other countries sniffing around for his services. Let's hope they're unsuccessful in that pursuit.

      French redemption. Let's be real. France deserved to win that game. By a wide margin. Even the most rose-coloured-glasses-wearing Canada fan has to concede that much. But guess what? They didn't. The soccer gods giveth and the soccer gods taketh away -- on this day, they gaveth Canada a dramatic victory, and tooketh away the baggage of the perception that Canada couldn't win big games against higher-ranked teams. Specifically, this wipes clean the bitter taste left in Canadian mouths after the 4-0 loss at Germany 2011, and a 2-0 loss in the final of this year's Cyprus Cup.

      The legacy for 2015. Said Matheson after the bronze-medal victory: "We came in wanting to leave a legacy for Canadian soccer, and I think we did that heading into 2015." Indeed. The victory couldn't have come at a better time, in terms of building interest and momentum for the Women's World Cup we'll be hosting in three years' time. And while the fate of the program after veterans such as Sinclair and Matheson retire is in doubt, I'm guessing that this medal, this moment, has sparked inspiration in a whole new generation of young Canadian players.

      Matheson's goal is the moment that will be replayed ad nauseam -- most likely with I Believe blaring in the background -- for days, weeks, maybe years to come. But it was just the icing on the cake. This moment was built, and earned, by not just the hard work and dedication of all the players in this tournament, but by the years of fighting the under-appreciated and largely unnoticed fight by this team and those that support them.

      Can this team, and Canadian soccer as a whole, capitalize upon this achievement? Is this a watershed moment for the game in this country, or a mere blip on the radar of generalized disappointment? It'll take hard work to ensure that it's the former, rather than the latter, to be sure. And questions still remain about many aspects of the program.

      But you know what, for today, those questions don't matter. Let's think about them tomorrow. For now, we can revel in the near-unspeakable reality that Canada has won an Olympic medal in soccer.

      Perhaps Matheson's goal doesn't instantly join the pantheon of "where were you?" goals in Canadian sports history -- Henderson, Crosby, et. al. -- but years from now, maybe it will be regarded in exactly the same way. Maybe one day, when soccer occupies a regular spot near the forefront of the Canadian sporting consciousness, we'll be telling our kids and grandkids about what we were doing when Matheson, against the run of play, found the back of the net ("what's a TV, grandpa?").

      But again, let's worry about that later. For now, we'll enjoy where we are: In the moment.

      Congratulations, ladies.

      .
      Comments 29 Comments
      1. jonovision's Avatar
        jonovision -
        I'm still trying to piece it together but I think my reaction to Matheson's goal was bolting out of chair and doing about 20 air punches with both hands. Great work writing about this team over the last year, squizz.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Oh squizz, you'll probably have a coronary over a game long before you have grandchildren, let's be honest. But what a way to go.
      1. squizz's Avatar
        squizz -
        Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
        Oh squizz, you'll probably have a coronary over a game long before you have grandchildren, let's be honest. But what a way to go.
        Haha, oh dear, you're probably right.
      1. CoachRich's Avatar
        CoachRich -
        Great coverage squizz & co Lots to celebrate & look forward to. Going to be interesting to see how many of the canwnt 1980-85 stay around now for 2015 and who Herdman is going to bring in from the youth program of the canwnt. Cheers
      1. peter3's Avatar
        peter3 -
        Thanks for your work on the Olympics, squizz. It's been great - and fun.

        This French side is technically very good. But man, do they need to work on their headspace. I agree that they had a lot of the run of play and many more shots, but they surely do seem to panic. Far too many of their opportunities were squandered on low percentage, long-range bombs. They didn't miss any penalties today but they were the mistresses of their own destinies and didn't use the chances they had. They have some questions to ask of themselves.

        Anyway, I'm smiling - for the win and for Diana, who really deserves this moment in the sun. I laughed when Wilkinson (I think it was) threw her over her shoulder and smacked her on the backside in celebration. What a wonderul, talented, wee dynamo.
      1. BHTC Mike's Avatar
        BHTC Mike -
        If you're a fan of Canadian soccer and women's soccer, IF the mooted new pro league actually happens, IF there happens to be a team (or two) in Canada in your region...

        Buy a season ticket. Hell, buy a pair. Even if you can't show up to every game.

        It's not just about supporting the national team once in a while. These women need a place to play and supporting them BETWEEN major tournaments would be the biggest legacy of this unlikely medal.

        (And, for the record, any league SHOULDN'T be WPS 2.0. It needs to be a sensible league with a sensible business plan that can survive, lay down roots, and serve as a base to grow from. It doesn't need to have every star from this tournament on full time wages; it needs to be a place to groom the next generations of Olympians.)
      1. Raven's Avatar
        Raven -
        I think I read somewhere, that the Can/US game was one of the highest rated sporting events on TV....ever! Of course can't find the link.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        I'm so happy that the players got the break in the end and capitalized at the death: we deserved some good fortune after the last match. But the second half was pretty much all one way traffic as many of our players were running on fumes. The French missed by inches on some headers off crosses and as well as Scott's goal line clearance (thank goodness she stayed in the area of the near post this time). We were lucky, but I don't care.

        Way to go, ladies!
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Kudos to Greg Kerfoot and the Whitecaps Women's program for laying the foundation for an Olympic medal. Thanks for all you've done for Canadian soccer. Celebrate, this is your medal too!
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        It was very deserving that the goal came from Matheson. One of the most talented player on the team, best technical player for sure, a great work rate and just under-appreciated all around by the media.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        And from the French perspective, this game was too similar to the semi-final they had against Japan. Took over game in second half, very dangerous after Abily and LeSommer came on. I think they should have gone on earlier for them.
      1. Tuscan's Avatar
        Tuscan -
        I was already standing due to the way things were shaping up with our possession in their end, and when Sophie took her shot I knew instantly it was going to rebound to Matheson, who had nothing but net in front of her. When that ball went in, I was part of the double-fist pumping the air crew like you Jono.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Quote Originally Posted by Tuscan View Post
        I was already standing due to the way things were shaping up with our possession in their end, and when Sophie took her shot I knew instantly it was going to rebound to Matheson, who had nothing but net in front of her. When that ball went in, I was part of the double-fist pumping the air crew like you Jono.
        Picture this, Six in the morning a my 4 year old son and I are watching the game on the couch and I just yelled "WE GOT THE BRONZE BABY!!!!" Ha! that was fun!

        Great work Ladies, we're lucky to have you playing for our country!
      1. bgnewf's Avatar
        bgnewf -
        Not ashamed to admit that I got real choked up watching the celebration on the field after game. What a moment for ALL of Canadian Soccer!
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
        It was very deserving that the goal came from Matheson. One of the most talented player on the team, best technical player for sure, a great work rate and just under-appreciated all around by the media.
        I think she was one of the few players (along with Moscato? Scott?) who played every minute of the tourney. Did a great job and deserved her goal.

        I would like to give a shout out to Sesselmann, as well: played out of her natural position for most of the tourney at CB, she did an effective job and after she was moved back to LB in the late stages it was her bold supporting run and pass that was a key to the sequence of build up resulting in the winner.

        Great team effort: many contributors throughout the tourney. Go celebrate, you all!
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Loved this tweet from Hayley Wickenheiser: "When the legs don't work, let ur heart take over!! Canada did it today and made history!!"

        They were hurting in the second half but got the job done. It will be interesting to see what kind of stamina the US has against Japan. That 120+ minute barnburner on Monday after a game every third day since the 25th is a pretty serious test of conditioning.
      1. adrenaline11's Avatar
        adrenaline11 -
        This win is right up there in the Top 5 greatest moments in Canadian soccer history (for my money, it's #3). We didn't win gold, but we won brozne and tons of respect.

        Thank you, ladies for all the memories you've given us in this tournament! You all make me proud to be Canuck.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        "I would like to give a shout out to Sesselmann, as well: played out of her natural position for most of the tourney at CB, she did an effective job and after she was moved back to LB in the late stages it was her bold supporting run and pass that was a key to the sequence of build up resulting in the winner."

        Pleasantly surprised at how well she did at CB. When she went back to LB, she went forward and was part of the build-up play that lead to that game-winning goal.
      1. squizz's Avatar
        squizz -
        Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
        "I would like to give a shout out to Sesselmann, as well: played out of her natural position for most of the tourney at CB, she did an effective job and after she was moved back to LB in the late stages it was her bold supporting run and pass that was a key to the sequence of build up resulting in the winner."

        Pleasantly surprised at how well she did at CB. When she went back to LB, she went forward and was part of the build-up play that lead to that game-winning goal.
        Bang on. As soon as Herdman brought in Chapman, I got a very hopeful feeling about Sess barreling down the wing late in the game.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        I guess we won't be hearing how bad the refs are anymore.
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