Sadly the headline “Canada does not advance to next round” is becoming much like “Man stabbed in Downtown Eastside“. You get a little used to it and it stops shocking you even when it’s on the women’s side where Canada has traditionally fared better than the men’s teams.
After starting with a win, very much against the run of play, against Ghana and then a loss to Ireland, Canada lost 2-0 to Brazil yesterday in a fairly lopsided game last night in Trinidad. Here’s a quick rundown.
The good: Bryan Rosenfeld* had these girls actually trying to play. Having grimaced through the Pellerud years when we competed well against decent teams and regularly trounced up and comers by simply thrashing the ball down the field, battling for knockdowns and using speed and strength to pressure inexperienced teams into mistakes, Rosenfeld is clearly of the new breed who realizes that there’s another type of glass ceiling for young women and it’s on the soccer field. This ceiling takes the form of the later rounds of international tournaments and it’s victims are those that still want to play kick and chase soccer in an era where the women’s game has reached a level of technical ability that allows more and more teams to overcome such anachronistic approaches.
As other countries put money and coaching into girls and women’s programs with an emphasis on technical ability and suitable tactics, the Canadian battering ram tactics become less and less effective. At one point it got us to the final of U20 Women’s World Cup and a semi final in Women’s World Cup but it’s been the law of diminishing returns since then as countries like Mexico and Costa Rica learn that work rate off the ball coupled with a good first touch can overcome full throttle pressure and let you play through it. The inevitable holes that appear once you get past the first two or three on-rushers are now liabilities for teams that still want to play the way virtually all youth girls teams here are still taught to play. Try to find a U11 to U18 girls game, any level, and not hear “Good boot! Now pressure!” as the dominant coaching message. You’ll need to go to a lot of games.
So credit to Rosenfeld and his staff for trying to evolve the women’s game. He will likely find himself out of a job at the CSA for his efforts! There were moments of excellent movement and passing. In particular, Alison Clarke’s threaded pass forward to Jade Kovacevic in the 54th minute was world class. She won the ball at the centre line and confidently advanced, waiting for Kovacevic’s run in behind the central defender before timing a perfectly weighted pass to her. It was the best of several nice build ups. Unfortunately, none resulted in a serious strike at goal.
If that was the good, we can combine the bad and the ugly and label it ‘conceded goals’. Both were atrocious. Have a look at the video here. On the first, the Brazilian girl crossing the ball could have flicked the ball up, done ten keep ups, put it down, had a chat with the fans, solved the Middle East crisis and still got her cross in before anyone closed her down. Second problem is that it’s 6v3, in Canada’s favour, when the cross comes in yet it’s a Brazilian, very loosely marked, who gets their first and shins one in on the bounce over the keeper’s head. You can say it was a fluke but when you outshoot your opponent 30-6 you’ll be the beneficiary of a fluke or two. They saying, ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get’ is very apt here. It’s work maintaining possession and creating opportunities and even though Brazilians tend to make it look easy, it’s still tons of movement and physical exertion.
My U16 girls gold team would still be hearing about the second goal if they had conceded it so for the National U17’s obviously it’s one they’d like to have back. A completely unnecessary giveaway in the defensive third right onto the foot of a Brazilian who takes advantage of transition play nicely and puts a square ball across the box that benefits massively from the left back letting the ball skip right over her left foot(!) to Thais who finished very well.
So two very simple chances to clear the ball from the defensive third gift the back breaking goal to Brazil. From there Canada had one good chance but Brazil had at least three more.
*Full disclosure. Bryan and I were on the same National U19 team that spent almost four weeks in Trinidad (where the U17 World Cup is) in 1984 qualifying for the 1985 Youth World Cup in the (then) USSR. Safe to say our team left Minsk with its own “Man stabbed at Hastings and Main” type headline as well: 2-0 loss to Nigeria, 0-0 v Australia and a 5-0 pummelling by the Soviets.