This is actually going to be a very interesting tournament for Canada and it’s really going to boil down to one game: the last round robin game against host Mexico.
Yes, Carolina Morace has completely moved the team away from the long ball hoof and chase of Even Pellerud to a more sophisticated short passing, possession game (the type of game everybody loves until your team loses and then they’re labelled as “ineffective” and “lacking ideas in the attacking third.” Those headlines were all ready to go for Spain in the World Cup this past summer when they opened with a loss to the Swiss).
Yes, they recently beat China in an exhibition game in Toronto recently.
But let’s be clear on a couple of points. This Canadian squad, announced just yesterday, has a lot of players with very little international experience and Morace has had relatively little time to completely overhaul the system of play and find the players in this country who suit it. That is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that Canada, for the first time, failed to qualify for the U20 World Cup with a team that Morace picked and coached.
As for the defeat of China it looks great on paper but it was a mean nothing game for China as they’d already been knocked out of the 2011 World Cup having failed to qualify in a tournament they hosted in May. Fair to say, the Chinese team may be going through their own rebuilding period.
So expect comfortable wins over Guyana and Trinidad for Canada (full schedule here) but Mexico know that the route to their first Women’s World Cup will be a helluva lot smoother if they win the group and don’t have to face the USA in the semi-final (top two teams advance to Germany next summer for the World Cup; third place plays off against the fifth place team from Europe for the last spot). Canada know that as well and so both would much rather win the group and take their chances against what will likely be Costa Rica in the semis.
If Canada don’t qualify for this World Cup, I think it’s safe to say the CSA will very seriously consider removing her given they will have not qualified for the first two major tournaments she has presided over. Canada has qualified for every Women’s World Cup except the first in 1991 when Concacaf was only granted one spot and the USA went. They have qualified for every U20 World since hosting the inaugural version in 2002. What usually goes unsaid though is that after losing in the final to the USA in 2002, the team has gone out to finish worse in each subsequent tournament. In 2004, they lost in the quarter finals and didn’t get out of their round robin group in either 2006 or 2008.
That alone partially exonerates Morace as not qualifying for the 2010 U20 World Cup seems more a natural extension of the development arc of Canadian U20 players relative to the rest of the world that any change in system that she is bringing to the women’s national team.
Still, my money would be on her being replaced if they don’t qualify for the 2011 World Cup. And when that happens, get ready for the stories and the spin that come out from both sides. It will be ugly.
So I think I’ve sat on that fence just about every way possible. Prediction: Canada will tie Mexico but win the group on goal difference avoiding the USA and will then narrowly beat Costa Rica to advance to the Finals.
Canada’s first game is against former coach Pellerud’s new employers Trinidad and Tobago on Friday Oct 29 at 3pm PST.