When Canada takes to the pitch versus Cameroon on Monday in France, it will mark Desiree Scott’s third FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance.
That means the veteran midfielder, who has over 140 caps to her name, has been through some pivotal ebbs and flows with the Canadian team, including one of the program’s lowest points — the last place finish at the 2011 World Cup.
Scott, a 31-year-old native of Winnipeg, was also there for the high points, including Canada welcoming the world in 2015, and winning two Olympic bronze medals.
Scott recently chatted with Sportsnet over the phone from France to talk about the current landscape of the women’s game, and how the Canadian squad has changed in recent years.
SPORTSNET: How much do you think the team has grown since the 2015 World Cup held in Canada?
SCOTT: I think the team has grown immensely. I think we had a lot of learnings from that 2015 World Cup. I think there was disappointment there exiting the tournament early, and we’ve kept some core group of players, but also our younger players have now developed into young vets. They’re now in our starting 11, and they’re owning it. I think we’ve grown in terms of our attack: we’re lethal, and we’ve got speed. We’ve also got pace, and we’ve held on to what we believe is our Canadian DNA, and that’s our defensive side. We’ve just rounded out our game, I think.
A lot of years have gone by when we relied on [captain Christine] Sinclair to score the goals, and she’s done a great job — she’s still scoring them for us. But, now we’ve got other strikers with pace who can strike an amazing ball, we’ve got midfielders who are taking shots. Now it’s just a bit more unpredictable where our goals are going to come from. That’s a good thing for us.
SPORTSNET: No losses and just one goal conceded in nine matches so far this year. How would you describe the team’s defending?
SCOTT: We’re making it harder and harder for teams to score against us. We’re nullifying the chances that they’re getting and lowering that number down. Now when we win the ball, we’re strong going forward as well, which is awesome.
SPORTSNET: How has your style or role changed over the past four years?
SCOTT: I hope it’s evolved a little bit. I don’t think my game has changed massively. I think I’ve come into my own, owning who I am as a player. I think I thrive on “the Destroyer” nickname and that side of the game, those defensive bits like the tackles, putting my body on the line. But, I think I’ve rounded out my attacking. I know that I’m a player who likes to play simple, one-two touch and get the ball to the players who can work their magic and score goals. I think I’ve come into my own a little bit and appreciate what I bring to the pitch.
SPORTSNET: Was there ever a sense of relief amongst the returning players, knowing you don’t have that extra pressure of being the host nation like in 2015?
SCOTT: I think you can just breathe a little bit more. You can take a step back, and that enjoyment piece comes in a bit more now that we don’t have that added pressure of the fans, your family in the stands and that sort of thing. I think a lot of us are going to enjoy things more, and we’ll definitely help the young ones who this is their first World Cup. We still want to be the good humans, good role models for the people who are watching, but now we can really just focus on the soccer side of things, getting the job done on the pitch and inspiring through the way we play.
SPORTSNET: After the send-off friendly in Toronto versus Mexico, Christine Sinclair said this team is the one she’s waited for her entire career. What do you and the veterans see with this particular group?
SCOTT: I definitely think that’s an accurate statement. This is one of the best teams Canada, I believe, has ever seen. I think with our young players now, they exude confidence on the ball, they are comfortable within the environment on and off the pitch. This squad is really connected, and I think there are no cracks or holes. We all want to grind and work for each other, but now we’ve also got the skill to match that. We’ve got a perfect blend of everything that we need, like the perfect recipe for success here. It’s very exciting.
SPORTSNET: Looking at the landscape of women’s soccer now, we’ve seen tremendous growth in just four years: an uptick in attendance numbers, increased coverage. It seems to be a great time for the game, doesn’t it?
SCOTT: I definitely agree with that. There’s been massive growth not only in the improvement of the women’s games but also the recognition it’s receiving and the people who are tuning in to watch. There are so many incredible nations and female soccer players out there. People are definitely starting to take note.
SPORTSNET: And looking at this World Cup, it’s anyone’s to win.
SCOTT: This tournament is a unique one. When it comes to World Cup time, no team should be written off. I think teams rise to the occasion in a tournament like this. I think you’ve got to take it one game at a time and make sure you get the job done. Never discredit anybody or any team that you’re facing.
SPORTSNET: What advice are you offering the players on the Canadian team when it comes to their first World Cup appearance?
SCOTT: Embracing all of the highs and lows that a tournament can bring. I think just remembering to enjoy it. A lot of times you can focus on the results and your own performance, but this is a special time with a special group of people, and I think through the tournaments I’ve played in, I’ve realized how amazing it is to be here. I think I never appreciated fully what I was doing, where I was, the countries you visit, the cities you see. Just try to enjoy things a little bit more and recognize that we’re in it together. We’ve all got each other’s backs here.