With the momentum of serving as host country for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Canadian national team had high hopes to defeat England and qualify for the semi-finals. Expectations were high among players, fans and media alike, as Canada appeared destined for greatness.
Instead, Canada suffered a 2-1 upset loss against England as Lucy Bronze added to her growing legend among English soccer fans with a goal in a second consecutive game. After defeating a highly favored Norwegian team in the Round of 16, England remained poised against the host country, with a capacity crowd in Vancouver hoping for more Canadian magic.
As a nation collectively felt misery after a visceral 2-1 loss, compounded by a tearful Christine Sinclair on her knees, devastated by the outcome, the reality was that the World Cup was a tournament filled with several upsets. In addition to Brazil and Norway experiencing losses, the reality is that Canada may have endured a loss to defending World Cup champion Japan in the semifinals. Of course, the consolation would have been the chance to compete in the third place game, maintaining Canadian interest in the event.
Despite the outcome, there were still so many positives to consider. Of note, the greater victory was the national relevance of the event. For the first-time ever, women’s soccer was the lead story in Canadian sporting circles, unifying a nation and their championship dreams.
There is no question that the 2012 London Summer Games was the coming-out party for the Canadian national team, helping a nation of fans discover the sport. As such, the exceptional support and national pride that emanated during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup helped transform women’s soccer from novelty sport into an obsession, which should result in unprecedented growth.
In many ways, the heartbreak of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup mirrors the disaster that the Canadian national women’s hockey team experienced in a silver medal outcome at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games. Despite not meeting golden expectations, hockey had made an impression on Canadian sports fans, subsequently giving a generation of young sporting girls role models to look up to.
The Nagano Games would serve as the moment where women’s hockey became a relevant aspect of sport in Canada, resulting in more than just increased awareness, but a rapid number of players registering in following years. In effect, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is destined to have the same impact, as the next few years should see even more young girls interested in playing soccer, due to the efforts of exceptional women such as Christine Sinclair.