Germany logs second shutout win to clinch Group win at 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

After a 1-0-1 mark in their first two Group matches in Ottawa, Germany claimed a commanding 4-0 victory against Thailand in their final match of Group play. Contested in Winnipeg, the fans were treated to a commanding performance by the top-ranked Germans.

Testing Thai goaltender Warapom Boonsing early on, she played valiantly as the score was still 0-0 after 20 minutes. Despite her best efforts, the Germans would eventually break through. Led by Melanie Leupolz, who scored 24 minutes into the contest, it was a sensational header off a corner kick. Before half time, Celia Sasic would shoot twice on Boonsing, trying to add to the lead.

Germany’s efforts would yield positive results ten minutes after the half. Lena Petermann would come off the bench to score twice in two minutes, providing the top-ranked Germans in a comfortable 3-0 advantage. Left untouched by the Thai defense, Sara Deabrtiz would tap in the ball for the fourth and final goal as Germany clinched first place in their group.

Utilizing their height advantage, the Germans scored three of their four goals against Thailand on headers. In addition, Melanie Leupolz would be recognized as Player of the Game.

In the aftermath of the victory, head coach Silvia Neid pointed out several areas for improvement afterwards, which included players facing a slew of critical questions from German media. Nied was concerned that superiority on the field was not displayed, there was a lack of diagonal passes and there was not a lot of speed, resulting in several missed chances.

Despite the concerns, the Germans outshot the Thai team by a 10-0 count, while only Kanjana Sung-Ngoen was the only player to break through the German defense. Scoring 15 goals overall, while allowing only one (in a 1-1 tie against Norway) in Group play, Germany still put on a remarkable display of soccer dominance. Returning to Ottawa for the Round of 16, their next opponent shall be either the Netherlands or Sweden.

USA soccer heroes appear on four collectible Sports Illustrated covers

Building on the momentum of having Ronda Rousey grace its cover, Sports Illustrated (SI) has made a profound statement on the growing impact of women’s sport. Taking into account that late spring is playoff season in the NBA and NHL, it would have not been surprising to have a cover devoted to one of their sports. Instead, SI rightfully devoted their cover to a preview of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated's 2015 World Cup coverage

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated’s 2015 World Cup coverage

In fact, it is actually four different collectible covers that can be found on newsstands. Of note, four members of the United States national women’s soccer team are featured on said covers; led by forwards Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and midfielder Carli Lloyd. As a side note, subscribers receive a team cover, which features Leroux, Lloyd, Morgan and Wambach, who have collectively scored 331 goals in international play..

For Morgan, there may be a slight tinge of irony. Like the aforementioned Rousey, both have appeared in SI’s world-famous Swimsuit Issue. The chance for both to make an appearance on the cover is an opportunity to look beyond their sex appeal and celebrate their accomplishments, while simultaneously serving as role models for young girls.

Considering that the 35 year-old Wambach is in the twilight of her career, the chance to be featured on SI’s cover represents another milestone in her outstanding career. With 182 career goals, the most of any woman in the history of the sport, the one championship she has yet to win is the World Cup. Should the US emerge victorious in the gold medal game in Vancouver, expect another cover appearance for Wambach.

One element that has not been overlooked by Canada’s soccer fans is the fact that Leroux was born north of the border. The cover displays great bravura as the caption indicates that Leroux will silence Canada’s boos. With the USA’s first two games in Group play taking part in Winnipeg (its province borders the state of Minnesota), the number of American fans in attendance ensures there are no boos. As a side note, the USA’s third game takes place in Edmonton (where Canada played its first two Group games), the northern-most host city in the event, there may be some boos to come.

The key storyline of the issue is one of redemption. In addition to the goal of winning its first World Cup title since 1999, which was a landmark moment for women’s sport in America, motivation is high after the bitterness of a shootout loss to Japan in the 2011 title game. Compounded by the gender discrimination controversy over the use of artificial turf, America’s entry in this year’s World Cup has not been lacking in storylines.

Regardless of the outcome, the impact of all four covers signifies a remarkable victory. Punctuating the relevance of women’s soccer as a point of pride for American sports fans, perhaps it may lead to increased coverage of Women’s Professional Soccer, along with other female sports.

Janine Weber’s magical hockey journey continues in the NWHL

No player in women’s hockey has enjoyed as remarkable a year in 2015 as Janine Weber. Since becoming the first European-born player to score a Clarkson Cup-winning goal, it has led to increased attention wherever she plays.

With a newfound hockey hero status, Weber was among a group of players that attended the Connecticut Whale’s free agent camp. Other notable names at said camp included the likes of Brooke Ammerman, Kelly Babstock, Anya Battaglino, Sam Faber and Kaliegh Fratkin, among others.

Weber’s presence at the camp added a feeling of relevance for one of the NWHL’s charter franchises. Despite the return of professional hockey to the Nutmeg State, it would be the New York Riveters and not the Stamford-based Whale that signed Weber to a contract.

NY-Riveters

In doing so, Weber not only became the first player in the history of the Riveters franchise to sign a contract with the team, she became the first free agent signing in the entire history of the NWHL, a shrewd acquisition by Riveters general manager Dani Rylan. Taking into account that the Riveters also won the Draft Lottery, earning the first pick overall in the upcoming NWHL Draft, Weber’s acquisition adds momentum towards the team’s inaugural puck drop.

Considering that the NWHL shall be the first women’s hockey league to compensate its players, Weber’s presence becomes very symbolic. After helping the Boston Blades capture its second Clarkson Cup, the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto wanted to display Weber’s game-used stick. Unfortunately, she only had two sticks in her possession, and required them as she was going to represent Austria at the 2015 IIHF Div. 1A Women’s World Hockey Championships.

Wanting to acquiesce to the Hall’s request, the sad economic realities meant that Weber would have to find the means to replace her stick. Luckily, an outpouring of support via social media resulted in the stick manufacturer (STX Hockey) graciously supplying her with a new stick.

Although the stick story has taken on a life of its own, adding to Weber’s growing legend, such a conundrum shall not be part of her experience in the NWHL. The promise of compensation shall alleviate the financial worries that unnecessarily burdened so many in seasons past.

Another meaningful element that adds remarkable relevance towards the acquisition of Weber is the fact that the NWHL is committed towards providing European players with the opportunity to extend their careers past NCAA hockey by competing in its league. With a camp in late July designated for European players, the signing of Weber is testament to the league’s efforts, adding a very important credibility.

While the opportunity to score the Isobel Cup-clinching goal would only contribute to Weber’s growing mythology, the remarkable support on social media has certainly ensured that she shall be one of the NWHL’s fan favorites. Ready to continue her magical hockey journey in a league that is ready to embrace her status as a world-class hockey player, the real victory is the chance to showcase her skills for a group of jubilant fans ready to appreciate her contributions to the game.

DC Divas celebrate 15 years of elite female football in the nation’s capital

As one of the most important and accomplished teams in the modern history of female football, 2015 represents the landmark 15th anniversary of the DC Divas. Only the Minnesota Vixen and the New York Sharks have been in existence longer among female football teams in the United States. In their first 14 seasons, the Divas have assembled a remarkable win-loss record of 98-35.

Founded in 2000, they were one of ten charter franchises that composed the National Women’s Football Association. Enjoying their first undefeated season in 2004, they would follow it up with a charity game against a men’s team, setting a record (since broken) for the highest attendance at a female football game. The jubilation of their first national championship would occur in 2006 with a 28-7 triumph against the Oklahoma City Lightning, resulting in Rachelle Pecovsky earning MVP honors and a write-up in Sports Illustrated. In addition, Pecovsky would add to her Divas legacy by shattering the team record for most touchdowns in one game, by running for daylight five times on just nine carriers, part of a 76-0 whitewash of the Harrisburg Angels.

Over the seasons, another competitor that has played a role of prominence in the history of the franchise is Donna Wilkinson. A charter member, her gridiron legacy has only solidified her standing as one of the finest female athletes to have competed in the nation’s capital. Having spoken at Georgetown University about the role of women in sport, Wilkinson has also met the real-life female softball players that inspired the 1992 film. “A League of Their Own.” Also a television personality, she was a sports analyst for the WUSA-TV9 live sports show – GAME ON!

In late December 2014, an announcement concerning another charter member of the Divas helped build strong momentum heading into the anniversary season. The return of Alison Fischer as head coach represented another proud link to its earliest years. Of note, she has been involved with the Divas for 14 seasons (four as a coach, 10 as a player).

Fischer competed at the defensive back position for 10 seasons, while earning the honor of team captain for three of those seasons. After one season in retirement, she returned to the club as head coach, making a strong statement about the growing role of women in coaching. During her first three seasons, she led the club to a division crown in each, complemented by finishing in the top five national rankings each season.

The impact of the Anniversary season continued as Missy Bedwell, Cailie Brownson and Donna Wilkinson (all alums with Team USA) were invited to serve as instructors/mentors at the second annual Women’s World Football Games in Tampa, Florida. This honor was testament to their impact as legendary figures and ambassadors for the growing female game.

Prior to the season’s first kick-off, another monumental event occurred, destined to add to the mythology of the Divas. An announcement that the club would form a DC Divas Hall of Fame was an ideal opportunity to recognize the remarkable individuals who contributed to a great chapter in Washington sporting history.

With plans to induct four members on an annual basis, selection would be made through a two-tiered voting process involving Divas fans and alumnae. One member would be selected in an online fan vote, while the other three would gain entry on a vote from the alumni, including players, coaches and staff.

Of note, the 2015 Hall of Fame class was introduced at the Divas’ 2015 Homecoming contest on June 6, which was also Donna Wilkinson’s birthday. Hosting the fifth-ranked Cleveland Fusion, the Divas emerged victorious, improving their record to 7-0 for the first time since 2009. The halftime ceremony honored the D.C. Divas Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Tessa Nelson, Gayle Dilla, Vickie Lucas, and Coach Ezra Cooper.

Recently, team captains (and two-sport stars) Allyson Hamlin and Trigger McNair were the subject of an interview in Washington Life, another point of pride during the anniversary season. Such recognition only adds to the relevance of the Divas in the nation’s capital as they look to end said season with the second national championship in franchise history.

Although winning a national championship is akin to the pressure that comes with attempting to capture a title in men’s college football, the reality is that the Divas legacy in the city of Washington and in the rapidly growing sport of female football carries a significance that is certain to last over time. While a title is what everyone works towards, with due deference, it is a snapshot in time, a chapter in a bigger story. That bigger story consists of the impact of this amazing franchise, which has not only helped to signify the importance of female sport in America, but it has provided remarkable role models for young girls, while capturing the hearts and minds of both male and female sports fans.

French Open win nets Serena Williams 20th major

Although it may have been the most hard-earned major in her sterling career, Serena Williams proved why she is one of the greatest tennis players ever, male or female. Winning the 20th major of her career at the 2015 edition of the French Open, she defeated Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-3 6-7 (2) 6-2. Seeded 13 at the French Open, Safarova was making her first appearance in the finals of a tennis major.

Still showing signs of fatigue from the flu, Williams was unable to capitalize on a 4-1 advantage in the second set. Perhaps more surprising was the fact that she was behind 2-0 in the third.

Her ability to fight back the flu was akin to Michael Jordan, who battled the illness while leading the Chicago Bulls to their sixth league championship. Both sporting heroes added to their legend with such memorable performances.

In the aftermath of a dramatic victory, Williams became only the third woman in the history of tennis to win at least 20 majors. Ahead of Williams is Steffi Graf, who won 22 during the Open Era. Taking into account that Williams (who is also ranked No. 1 in the world) has already won two majors this season, and three straight (dating back to the 2014 US Open), she could finish the season by matching Graf. The fact that Williams won the first two Grand Slams of the season makes her the first since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to do so.

Germany wins by second-largest margin in Women’s World Cup history with 10-0 win over Ivory Coast

Ceila Sasic (3’, 15’, 31’) and Anja Mittag (29’, 35’, 64’) would both score hat tricks as top-ranked Germany enjoyed a 5-0 lead within the first 35 minutes of their Women’s World Cup (WWC) match against the Ivory Coast. Ranked 67 in the world, the Ivory Coast are the lowest ranked team competing at the WWC, making their debut in Ottawa.

Additional goals by Simone Laudehr (71’), Sara Dabritz (75’), Melanie Behringer (79’) and Alexandra Popp (85’) resulted in the second largest margin of victory in the history of the WWC. Of note, Germany holds the record with an 11-0 win against Argentina at the 2007 edition of the WWC (which Germany went on to win).

Heading into the match, Sasic (who plays for FFC Frankfurt) had 57 goals in 104 caps with Germany. With three goals in a time span of just 31 minutes, it set two new records. Not only was it Germany’s record-breaking fourth hat trick, it proved to be the fastest hat trick scored by a player in WWC history. The previous record had been set in the inaugural WWC in 1991, set jointly by Carin Jennings and Michelle Akers in a 33-minute time span.

Following halftime, Sasic was subbed, a merciful move on the part of the German squad. It also reflected strategy as the Germans next match is against Norway, a rematch of Euro 2014 women’s. Statistically, German won the possession battle with 61%, while outshooting the Ivory Coast by a 31-4 margin. As a side note, shots on target were 4-1 in Germany’s favor while they prevailed in corners by a 12-5 count. Fouls compounded the woes of the Ivory Coast as they endured 29, compared to only 10 for the Germans.

Despite the lopsided score, the Ivory Coast did have chances to break the shutout. Binta Diakite had a goal disallowed due to a foul on German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer. In addition, Ange N’Guessan had an open goal but she headed the ball. Lack of experience proved to be a factor in the loss for the Ivory Coast as they were the unfortunate recipients of six yellow cards. Once the squad tired after halftime, it resulted in holes in their defense which Germany exploited to add five more goals.

Through it all, goalkeeper Dominique Thiamale played valiantly for the Ivory Coast. The crowd at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Stadium showed tremendous empathy and support for her valiant play. In the first half, she made five crucial saves in what was only the second international match of 2015 for the Ivory Coast.

The strong start for Sasic and Mittag place them in the conversation for the Golden Boot Award. They would add to Germany’s historic momentum by becoming only the third duo in WWC history to score hat tricks in the same game. The first such occurrence was in 1991 when Brazil’s Pretinha and Sissi accomplished the feat.
It would take another 16 years for the feat to be duplicated, as Germany’s Birgit Prinz and Sandra Smisek both logged hat tricks. Ironically, only one player even registered a hat trick in the previous WWC and that was Homare Sawa with the Japanese squad that eventually claimed the title.

Canadian captain Christine Sinclair logs game-winning goal to open 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

In the opening game of the 2015 FIFA Women’s’ World Cup, it was only fitting that Canadian captain Christine Sinclair provided the heroics. Scoring the first goal of the event, Sinclair’s goal also stood as the game-winning goal in an emotional 1-0 win against China, ranked 16th in the world.

Adding to the drama was the fact that said goal was scored past the 90th minute of play. With the score deadlocked at 0-0, the Chinese tried to waste time, running out the clock, as the Canadian fans booed in disapproval. A key strategy for Canadian head coach John Herdman involved substituting players later in the game to attempt and create scoring chances.

Kaylyn Kyle replaced Jonelle Foligno after 61 minutes of play. His following substitution saw Desiree Scott step in for Jessie Fleming. His final decision featured Leon for Melissa Tancredi at the 77th minute.

Making her 224th international appearance, Sinclair earned the chance to score on a penalty kick in stoppage after Adriana Leon fell to the ground after contact with Zhao Rong. The goal would prove to be the 154th in her distinguished career. Statistically, Canada had possession of the ball for 62 percent, while outshooting the Chinese by a convincing 14-5 margin.

With an outstanding crowd of 53,058 fans at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, national pride ran rampant. In addition, the attendance set a new record for a national team match in Canada. The previous record was 51,936 when the Canadian men’s team played Brazil (also at Commonwealth Stadium).

US soccer captain Christie Rampone scores with cover appearance on SI Kids

Looking to be the first US soccer captain since Mia Hamm to lead her team to a Women’s World Cup victory, Christine Rampone has an extra incentive. Of note, a World Cup victory would complement a great personal milestone for Rampone. Celebrating her birthday on June 24, during the World Cup, she shall turn 40.

Appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids (cover date June 2015), Rampone is joined by Alex Morgan, one of the world’s most popular players, and Abby Wambach, a 12-year veteran on the team who shall be counted on for leadership. As a side note, Morgan is featured on a pull-out poster in the magazine.

RamponeSIKids

With the words, “The Avengers” in bright blue, adorning the bottom left of the cover, these real-life superheroes bring high motivation. Four years ago, the US endured a visceral loss in an emotional World Cup final to a Japanese squad looking to raise the spirits of a devastated nation suffering from the effects of an earthquake.

Gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids represents a special milestone for Rampone as she is the mother of two young children. In addition, she was among the members of the US national women’s soccer team selected as Sports Illustrated Sportswomen of the Year for 1999.

Having competed in four World Cups for the US, including the emotional victory in 1999 (which is also the last time that the US claimed the World Cup), she is the appropriate choice to serve as captain of the US contingent heading into the 2015 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

In Rampone’s distinguished career, it will signify a historic achievement in her career as she shall be one of only five women internationally to have played in at least five World Cup events. Making her debut for the US national team a generation ago on February 28, 1997, her first career goal with the national team occurred on May 2, 1997, versus South Korea.

Heading into the 2015 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, avenging that loss is definitely the US team’s mission. Taking into account that the championship game shall be held in Vancouver, it offers a unique element of redemption. During the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Canada defeated the United States in the gold medal games of men’s and women’s ice hockey. Only adding to the sporting rivalry between the two nations, the possibility of Canada and the US in the World Cup title game would likely be the highest rated soccer game in TV history for both countries.

Intriguing personalities to look for at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

One of the realities of the Women’s World Cup is that many of these competitors will be looked upon as sex symbols. Although it may present a point of tension among some, the number of web pages devoted to the most attractive female footballers is in significant abundance. Perhaps it is not so wrong to celebrate the beauty of these women, but it is essential to recognize and acknowledge their sporting abilities. Beauty aside, these are truly some of the world’s most talented footballers and could easily hold their own against several men’s teams. Their opportunity to compete on a global scale may lead to a much greater appreciation of their contributions to the Beautiful Game.

Megan Rapinoe

Appearing in the 2014 edition of the ESPN Body Issue

Appearing in the 2014 edition of the ESPN Body Issue

A member of the Seattle Reign, Rapinoe’s soccer resume also includes stints with the Chicago Red Stars, Philadelphia Independence and France’s Olympique Lionnaise. Her breakthrough moment occurred at the 2011 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Trailing against Brazil, her cross to Abby Wambach tied the game, sparking the greatest comeback in US soccer history.

The following year, she would accumulate seven points (including a Goal Olimpico) in a gold medal effort at the 2012 London Summer Games. Such momentum led to a pair of remarkable milestones in 2013. Not only was she recognized as the Best Player of the Algarve Cup, she earned an assist on Abby Wambach’s record-breaking goal in international play with 159. Said assist occurred in a friendly against South Korea on June 20.

Considering that Rapinoe is a strong supporter of several LGBT organizations, having come out in July 2012, she may become the focus of attention for several members of the media looking to write positive pieces about players with same-sex preferences. An ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organization determined to end homophobia in sport, her status as world-class soccer player may help increase awareness. Currently in a relationship with musician Sera Cahoone, a World Cup title would be the perfect complement to an outstanding career.

Anouk Hoodendijk (Netherlands)

Taking part in a photoshoot for Nike

Taking part in a photoshoot for Nike

An 11-year veteran of the Dutch national women’s team, her presence shall be one based on leadership. In her international career, scoring the game-winning kick in the penalty shootout against France may have stood as a career highlight. Of note, it helped the Netherlands advance to the semi-finals of the Women’s Euro 2009.

A lifelong supporter of the Dutch powerhouse Ajax Vrouwen, the club established a female team in May 2012. The opportunity to compete for the squad in their inaugural season was a cherished moment in her career. Having also been signed by the Arsenal Ladies (England), she never suited up for the squad.

Julia Simic (Germany)

Julia Simic

Julia Simic

Simic is a product of Germany’s player development, having competed with their U18 and U23 teams. From both German and Crotian descent, she is a competitor with VfL Wolfsburg, a championship team from the Women’s Bundesliga, she is signed through 2017. In anticipation of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Simic was among five female soccer players that appeared in a partial state of undress in the pages of German Playboy.

Jessica Landstrom (Sweden)
JessicaLandstrom

Having scored a goal in her debut for the Swedish national team (November 8, 2007), Landstrom is aiming for another podium finish in Canada. At the 2011 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sweden earned a bronze medal, one of the highlights in her proud career. Influenced by elite strikers such as Lotta Schelin and Victoria Sandell Svensoon, Landstrom wants to stake her claim as the next of the elites.

Currently, a member of Sky Blue FC, Landstrom has also played in Germany. Ironically, she holds a unique connection with a current member of the US national team. Having established herself as a star in the Swedish league, American-born Christen
Press departed Goteborg FC, only to be replaced by Landstrom.

Back in 2008, Landstrom also came out, expressing her same-sex preference. At a time when many athletes were not comfortable disclosing such information, she helped open the door for other athletes to do so. Also a highly educated individual, Landstrom possesses a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Érika Cristiano dos Santos (Brazil)

CALENDÁRIO DO CENTENÁRIO DO SANTOS FC - Érika,  jogadora do Santos FC, durante lançamento do calendário do centenário e da coleção moda praia do clube. O calendário é um ensaio sensual das jogadoras santistas e é datado de abril de 2011 até abril de 2012, quando o Santos FC completará 100 anos. - Estádio Urbano Caldeira (Vila Belmiro) - Santos - SP - Brasil - 13/04/2011 - Foto: Ricardo Saibun/Gazeta Press

CALENDÁRIO DO CENTENÁRIO DO SANTOS FC – Érika, jogadora do Santos FC, durante lançamento do calendário do centenário e da coleção moda praia do clube. O calendário é um ensaio sensual das jogadoras santistas e é datado de abril de 2011 até abril de 2012, quando o Santos FC completará 100 anos. – Estádio Urbano Caldeira (Vila Belmiro) – Santos – SP – Brasil – 13/04/2011 – Foto: Ricardo Saibun/Gazeta Press

Providing the Brazilian contingent with a talent that can complement those of Marta, de los Santos is a rising star in the game. Competing with Centro Olímpico, she contributed to Brazil capturing the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Possessing the versatility to play both forward and defense, de los Santos will likely log a significant amount of playing time. Her sex appeal with fans may raise her to an unforeseen level of popularity or media interest. A few seasons ago, her club team in Brazil donned a fashion runway wearing tiny swimsuits. With a confidence that could be interpreted as empowering, de los Santos captured the imaginations of those in attendance with her stunning appearance in a black and white number.

Of note, this year’s World Cup does not mark the first time that dos Santos competes in North America. During 2009, she competed in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer with FC Gold Pride.

In World Cup play, dos Santos is looking for redemption. Having faked an injury during an emotional quarterfinal loss against the United States, she was shown the yellow card. It led to a downward spiral in her career, where she missed two years with the Brazilian national team due to injury.

Corine Franco (France)

Featured in the French version of Self Magazine (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Featured in the French version of Self Magazine (Photo credit: Getty Images)

As the veteran leader of the French national team, Corine Franco wants to ensure that France does not endure another fourth place finish which befell them in a loss to Canada at the 2012 London Summer Games. Compounding such a loss was the fact that France also finished in fourth at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The team captain of Olympic Lyon, she has competed in almost 90 international games for the French national team. Serving as the captain for France’s entry into the 2015 World Cup, the determination for a podium finish is stronger than ever. As a side note, she was one of three footballers from the French national team to appear in a complete state of undress for Self Magazine. Photographed by Getty Images, the images showcased the confidence of these athletic women to appear in such a manner.

Sydney Leroux and Lauren Sesselmann
Considering the rivalry that exists between Canada and the United States in women’s soccer, it is an anomaly of sorts to see a pair of players competing for the opposite country. Should these two countries cross paths in the elimination matches at this year’s World Cup, there is no question that their allegiances shall make for an interesting story with members of the media.

Born in British Columbia, Leroux is a competitor for the United States national team. Having captured the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games, it only added to the bitter taste that Canadians felt after a controversial loss to the US in the semi-finals. When Nike revealed the new uniforms for the US team a few weeks ago, Leroux was one of the players who modeled them.

Having been ranked by many sports websites as one of the most beautiful competitors at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sesselman’s popularity is bound to increase. With a very strong following on social media, the irony of her career with Canada’s national team is that she was born in Wisconsin. Canadian sports fans who were not familiar with soccer quickly became interested after seeing her and fellow teammates Emily Zurrer looking stunning in swimsuits in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sport edition.

Hope Solo
HopeSoloESPY

Despite a brilliant career complemented by so many remarkable achievements, the great tragedy of Hope Solo’s career is the controversy that has defined it. Although some criticisms may not be fair comment, the sad reality is that Solo will likely have to tolerate it for the remainder of her career. Considered one of the world’s most beautiful female soccer players, Solo has graced the cover of popular magazines such as ESPN, Newsweek and Vogue. There is no question that the media spotlight shall shine brightly on Solo, who is looking to help the US avenge its second place finish at the 2011 edition of the World Cup.

Marta Vieira da Silva (Brazil)

Photo credit: Paulo Fridman / Corbis. Soccer

Photo credit: Paulo Fridman / Corbis. Soccer

Quite possibly the world’s greatest female soccer player, a World Cup championship would cement Marta’s sterling legacy. Taking into account that Brazil is one of the world superpowers in soccer, fans have been disappointed that its female stars have not been able to emulate their male counterparts on the world’s biggest soccer stages. Having won a champion with the Western New York Flash in WPS play, Marta is accustomed to big game situations. With a much improved supporting cast on the Brazilian squad, it would come as no surprise to see Marta competing in Vancouver.

Abby Wambach

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated's 2015 World Cup coverage

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated’s 2015 World Cup coverage


If any player may be considered the villain of the World Cup, it might be Abby Wambach. In criticizing the use of artificial turf at all of the Canadian venues for the event, it struck a media firestorm.

Faking into account the rivalry between Canada and the United States, Wambach may be booed in the preliminary matches. The tensions were understandable as the upcoming World Cup shall be the first (including the men’s edition) that shall be played exclusively on artificial turf.

Having scored more goals than any other player in the history of the US women’s program (178), a Women’s World Cup title is the only accolade eluding her. Possessing two Summer Games gold medals, she has also won an ESPY Award for Best Play. This past April, she appeared on American Idol, offering Ryan Seacrest a US jersey and the chance to be a waterboy for the women’s team.

Controversy aside, Wambach is definitely the veteran leader of this United States team and her goal is to lead the US to its first World Cup title since hosting the event in 1999.

Christine Sinclair

A jubilant Sinclair inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2013 (Photo credit: Michelle Siu, Canadian Press)

A jubilant Sinclair inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2013 (Photo credit: Michelle Siu, Canadian Press)

If the 2012 London Summer Games were Christine Sinclair’s coming out party, then the 2015 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup is a remarkable appreciation tour. With the event being hosted in her native Canada, Sinclair has become one of the most influential athletes, male or female, in Canada’s sporting conversation. Since the London Summer Games, female soccer players have started to garner the attention and celebrity status once reserved for Canada’s female hockey heroes. Should Canada claim the World Cup, it would be safe to assume that Sinclair’s strong leadership would make her the choice to claim the Lou Marsh Trophy, honoring the Canadian athlete of the year.

Canadian soccer documentary RISE perfectly captures the female sporting zeitgeist

From the outset, the most redeeming quality of RISE, a documentary on the Canadian national women’s soccer team, is the fact that it is showcasing a remarkable group of women who are serving as role models for today’s generation of young soccer players. So many members of the current Canadian roster did not grow up with any female soccer role models. Not only does this classify them as pioneers, but it adds to the athletic context of the documentary.

Directed and produced by American-born filmmaker Bobbi Jo Hart of Adobe Productions, her behind-the-scenes access spanned a period of three years. Condensing three years of research and footage into a one-hour documentary may have been an Amazonian task, but the result is a poignant and compelling.

Vancouver would serve as the main setting for Hart’s documentary, which is appropriate as the gold medal game of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup shall take place there. Also serving as the home of the training facility for Canada’s national soccer team, the most unique training ritual caught by Hart’s lens are the grueling yet therapeutic ice baths that players must endure for their tired legs.

Translating her vision into an entertaining package built on empathy and empowerment, while enlightening viewers in the hard work and sacrifice that entails the journey towards the World Cup, Hart perfectly blends the emotion of competition and the feelings of players through up-close and personal interview footage. Akin to the classic women’s hockey documentary “The Game of Her Life”, RISE serves as the jumping on point for novice soccer fans, while showing a warm and candid side to the players.

First broadcast on TSN (the Canadian version of ESPN) on May 26 and CTV on May 31, it has aired in repeats on TSN2. As a side note, it aired with French subtitles on RDS (Reseau de Sports), also part of the TSN family of networks. Having gathered game footage in Edmonton, Toronto and Winnipeg, Hart builds on the momentum from the 2012 London Summer Games, where Canada earned a bronze medal, the first in Canadian women’s soccer history. Of note, Edmonton served as the backdrop for Canada prevailing over South Korea in a friendly.

Contests in Toronto and Winnipeg highlighted the growing rivalry between Canada and the US. With a sold-out crowd at BMO Field in Toronto, the emotions of fans and players alike punctuates the perfect picture of patriotism while showcasing the growing impact of female sport in Canada.

Taking into account that Canada struggled through a last place finish at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the last three years have represented a dramatic turnaround. Not only does the crowd support in Toronto and Winnipeg (where they once drew 350 fans to a 1990 game featuring Canada’s women) emphasize the impact of said turnaround, but an exhibition match at York University where Canada defeated world ranked number 5 Sweden serves to strengthen the team’s confidence, perfectly captured behind Hart’s lens.

As an intimate window into the lives of athletic women putting soccer on Canada’s sporting map, RISE bestows the same heroic recognition once reserved only for male athletes. Proving to be an invaluable archive, a chronicle that shall stand up over time, its greatest victory may be the number of girls that may decide to start playing the game, growing up with the hope of emulating the likes of Kyle, Matheson, Sesselmann, Sinclair and Tancredi, among others.