VANCOUVER — Victor Montagliani says the Canada’s exit at the quarter-final stage of the Women’s World Cup was a "missed opportunity" to truly grab the host nation’s attention.
The president of Canada Soccer took part in FIFA’s closing press conference on Friday and said the country’s loss to England was disappointing, but added there is plenty to build on moving forward.
"Obviously when you’re hosting an event — it doesn’t matter what sport you’re in — and you don’t win it or get to a final, it is a missed opportunity," said Montagliani. "I don’t think there’s any way to sugar-coat that."
The Canadians lost 2-1 to the English in the quarters last weekend thanks in large part to two defensive gaffes in the first 15 minutes that they could never recover from in front of a crowd of more than 54,000 at B.C. Place Stadium.
The United States will play Japan in Sunday’s final in Vancouver, while England meets Germany in Saturday’s third-place game in Edmonton.
"Our goal was always to be (in the final) on Sunday, and also the secondary goal was to be (in the semis) in Edmonton on Canada Day," said Montagliani. "We didn’t succeed, so from a micro level it’s been a difficult pill to swallow."
Despite that heartbreak, Montagliani said Canada can take lessons from the field in how it manages and develops players for big competitions.
"The team did get better as the tournament went on," he said. "I think we need to use this as a learning experience, not only from a World Cup perspective, but tournament play, and build on it and build upon the disappointment."
As expected, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his No. 2, secretary general Jerome Valcke, skipped Friday’s press conference and also won’t be attending Sunday’s final. A spokesperson said earlier this week the pair will remain in Zurich "due to their current commitments."
Valcke was supposed to attend the opening of the tournament last month, but backed out in the wake of the growing corruption scandal surrounding soccer’s world governing body. Blatter was initially due to attend the final, but his travel plans were downgraded to undetermined before being cancelled this week.
Blatter has handed the trophy to the winners at each Women’s World Cup since he took over as president in 1998. FIFA has yet to say who that job will fall to this year.
"Whoever the winning captain is, I don’t think they care who gives them the trophy," said Montagliani. "I actually think in light of the circumstances the focus needs to be on … the players that are on (the field), not suits that run football like myself."
Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli said that when the final tally is made, organizers expect to have sold about 1.35 million tickets for the tournament’s 52 matches, or about 90 per cent of the goal of 1.5 million tickets. It should be noted that FIFA counts doubleheaders as two tickets.
Apart from the men’s World Cups, Montopoli said that number would make the event the most attended FIFA tournament in history.
Meanwhile, without explicitly saying that Canada will bid for a future men’s World Cup, both Montopoli and Montagliani hinted that the success of the women’s tournament puts the country in a good position.
"We will have hosted every major FIFA competition — youth, senior, men’s women’s — except the men’s World Cup," said Montopoli. "We’ve proved we can be a great host in our country and we’d certainly like to do it again, pending the right opportunities and circumstances."
Added Montagliani: "For us, it’s taking care of your own house. We started doing that even before this Women’s World Cup. I think we need to accelerate that because by doing that you can leverage the success of a tournament like this."