If one word can sum up the Canadian Women’s National Team performance at World Cup 2019, it’s ‘disappointment’. A team that came into the tournament ranked fifth in the world, defeated by a Swedish squad ranked ninth.
Take the rankings for what you will, but the entire tournament this Canada squad did not look like they deserved the number five ranking that befell them. The attack lacked a sense of danger that this team has possessed in the past and the defence looked quite shocking at times. Some may say that Stephanie Labbe didn’t make one big save the whole tournament, and they may be correct. Kadeisha Buchanon looked off her game, Sinclair’s years were starting to show and the likes of Fleming and Beckie left quite a bit to be desired.
Then we get to the curious case of Kenneth Heiner-Moller. Did Heiner-Moller do enough to convince Canadian supporters that he is the man for the job? Coming into the tournament, Canada was on a high. They had only conceded one goal in 2019 (against Nigeria), and were getting victories against teams that for all intents and purposes they should have beaten. The opponents leading up to the World Cup were not the perennial powerhouses, with the exception of England. Which begs the question of if the team was mentally and physically prepared enough for this tournament, and if Heiner-Moller had a decent enough grasp on who his main players were. The obvious names of Buchanon, Sinclair, Scott, and Lawrence are givens, but it seems Heiner-Moller missed the mark on a few of his selections.
In particular, Jessie Fleming, Janine Beckie, and Nichelle Prince – The main support for your talisman in Sinclair were poor. Anyone who is anyone could see that this front line was screaming out for someone of quality. Someone who was tricky, quick, and wasn’t afraid to have a shot. Heiner-Moller had this exact player on his bench in Adriana Leon. To a lesser extent, he also had Jayde Riviere who has amazing in her first few caps for the national team. The pure thought of starting both of these exciting players in a big match such as this would have ignited this team. When both Leon and Riviere came on, Canada had a new breath of life to draw from. For the first time all match they looked dangerous, threatening, and unpredictable even. This brings us back to our original question: Did Heiner-Moller do enough to convince Canadian supporters that he’s the man for the job?
The answer is no. Leading up to the tournament, the team wasn’t conceding goals – that’s a great feather in his cap. But the main issue is: the team also wasn’t scoring enough goals. In all of 2019 up until the tournament, Canada had only scored 8 goals in 9 matches. For all you stats nerds out there, that’s only 0.88 goals per match. That doesn’t necessarily strike fear into the heart of opposing defences. This is where we may get controversial.
Us here at The Starting XI love Christine Sinclair. But we’re also football supporters with a keen eye for the game. It is the personal opinion of one Peter Robinson who believes that an over-reliance on Christine Sinclair and her inclusion on every team sheet is a hindrance to the development of this squad and the results of tournaments such as this. She looked a step off the entire tournament. Sure, she scored one goal but it was more of a “bundle it in at the back post” as opposed to a volley or well-worked dribble. This squad lacked pace and trickery up front and part of the reason for that is an aging Sinclair. We want her to get the record. We also think that she should have taken the penalty against Sweden, but respect the fact that she gave it up to Janine Beckie based on history with Lindahl. Christine Sinclair will go down as one of the best players of all time in the Men’s or Women’s game. But after this tournament – only scoring 4 goals and crashing out in the round of 16 – we hope Heiner-Moller will allow Sinclair to take a backseat to the younger generation and see out her career as a substitute. Sinclair only needs two goals to tie Abby Wambach and three to pass her…only time will tell.