Qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup was relatively easy for Canada. Now comes the hard part.
After posting four wins and outscoring the opposition by a combined 24-1 margin, the Canadian team faces its biggest challenge of the Concacaf Women’s Championship when it meets the United States in Wednesday’s final in Frisco, Texas.
There might not be anything on the line, but Canada could receive a big boost in confidence with a win in its showdown against the Americans.
“This game is very important for us. We’re not looking at this tournament simply in terms of qualifying [for the World Cup]. That part is done. But we’re not finished what we’re working towards here in Texas. We’re pushing to be the best the world, and there’s no better way of showing that than beating a team like the United States,” Canadian defender Rebecca Quinn told Sportsnet.
Ranked No. 5 in the current FIFA world rankings, Canada has longed wanted to break through as one of the top sides in women’s soccer. The Reds have come close in the past, but they haven’t quite managed it. To do so, they have to beat elite nations such as the U.S., ranked No. 1 in the world and the reigning World Cup champions, on a regular basis.
But positive results against the Americans have been hard to come by for the Canadians. The U.S.’s all-time record versus Canada is 48-4-6, and the Reds last defeated their neighbours to the south at the 2001 Algarve Cup. Christine Sinclair and Charmaine Hooper scored in a 3-0 win that day. Since then, Canada is winless in 34 games versus the U.S., with 28 losses.
Last November, the teams battled to a 1-1 draw in an international friendly in Vancouver. Three days later, the U.S. earned a 3-1 win in San Jose.
A 23-year-old native of Toronto, Quinn has five goals in 43 games since debuting for Canada in 2014. She hasn’t played in as many matches against the Americans, so she’s not felt the wrath of their dominance in quite the same way as some of her more experienced teammates.
“I don’t want to speak too much on the history [of the series]. I don’t know what it’s been like other than my time here. If you’re looking more recently at our last two games, those were pretty even performances and we played them pretty close,” Quinn offered.
If nothing else, the U.S. should give Canada some competition.
Canada barely broke a sweat in the group stage of the tournament, racking up victories over Jamaica, Costa Rica and Cuba. A semifinal match against Panama didn’t prove too daunting, either – the Canadians whipped the Central Americans 7-0, with Quinn scoring the team’s fifth goal. That victory allowed Canada to clinch a berth at next summer’s World Cup in France.
“It’s never as easy as it looks. There’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes and lot of preparation that goes into it. We weren’t taking any of the games lightly. You don’t see that stuff on the pitch, and I’m glad it paid off so that fans and other people can think it was an easier feat than it looked,” Quinn said.
There are a number of teenagers in this Canadian squad, including Jordyn Huitema who has four goals in the tournament, and Emma Regan, who earned her first cap in the group stage match against Cuba.
Quinn is excited about the crop of young prospects on this team, and believes they can help Canada in the long-term beyond next summer’s World Cup.
“I was in that teenage group a short time ago, so it’s really nice to see the young talent coming through, and the way they present themselves on the field. They like to bring their style to the pitch, and the older players are willing to help them by getting them immersed in our tactics and culture,” Quinn said.
“It’s kind of crazy to look back and say, ‘Wow that was five years ago when I was in their shoes,’ and now they’re looking to as a veteran.”
NOTES: The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup will run from June 7 to July 7 in nine cities across France. Twenty-four teams will compete in the tournament; 18 nations have already qualified… The group stage draw for the World Cup will be held on Dec. 8 in Paris… Canada will make its seventh World Cup appearance next summer. The only time it didn’t qualify was for the inaugural tournament in 1991.