World Cup heartbreak on home soil for Canada cannot overshadow positives

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.

England pulls off stunning Round of 16 upset prevailing 2-1 against Norway

Following Australia’s stunning upset of Brazil in Round of 16 play, England followed suit with a 2-1 triumph against a powerful Norwegian squad who had ambitions to reach the semifinals. The heroics were attributed to Lucy Bronze, who converted on a long-range strike that proved to be the game-winner.

In front of a crowd of soccer enthusiasts at Ottawa’s Landsowne Park (where Norway played in Group B competition), England made history with their victory. Of note, it was the first time that England had prevailed in a Women’s World Cup contest that extended beyond Group play.

Considering the heartbreak that English soccer fans have felt with the performances of their men’s teams in international play, the 2-1 victory is a landmark moment in English women’s soccer history. In a tournament that has proven to be very difficult to come back and win if a team allows the first goal in match play, the English managed just that.

After neither team could score in the first half, Norway’s Solveig Gulbrandsen scored the game’s first goal at the 54th minute. Her header off the corner kick went past English goalkeeper Karen Bardsley off the top crossbar. Despite allowing the goal, Bardsley had some solid performances in the first half, stopping the likes of Isabell Herlovsen and Ada Hegerberg.

Of note, England would tie the score in a similar fashion as Stephanie Houghton converted a corner kick by heading it across the face of goal. The game-winner would come 15 minutes later as Jodie Taylor found Bronze. Releasing a shot to the near post, Bronze would fire it into the top corner past Ingrid Hjelmseth.

Despite not scoring in the contest, Manchester City’s Jill Scott was essential in helping set up plays, especially forcing a corner that resulted in Houghton’s game-tying goal. She also planted herself to the right of the penalty area, allowing Bronze the chance to capitalize on an eventual right-footed drive that made English soccer history.

Although Norway was unable to tie the game, they provided a remarkable effort, proving why they were the 2013 European Championship runners-up. Of note, the Norwegians maintained control for most of the match, especially with 51 minutes of possession. They also outshot the English by a 14-12 margin, including 5-3 on goal. For a proud soccer nation that was looking to win its first World Cup since 1995, the loss was more visceral as they had been unbeaten in their four previous matches against England in major tournaments.

England moves on to the quarterfinals against host country Canada. Of note, the last three World Cups have seen the squad suffer losses in the quarters, having reached the stage automatically after qualifying from group stage. Emotions will certainly run high for both sides as both look to reach the semifinals for the first time. Of note, Canada, who is coached by Englishman John Herdman, defeated England by a 1-0 tally in pre-tournament play.