With everyone's passports already stamped for London, tonight's game didn't really mean much, beyond bragging rights and a particularly crappy looking trophy. Let's hope at least Canada can convince themselves of that after coming off distinctly second best against the US.
A lot of the talk and media hype before the tournament started focused on the theme of redemption for the 2011 World Cup fiasco. Beating up on Haiti, Cuba, and Costa Rica was never going to prove anything, and though the qualification clinching game against Mexico saw a very good performance complimented by a welcome display of guts to put the game away when Mexico was threatening, it was merely doing what was expected of them. The real shot at redemption will come when there's big games against tough teams with medals on the line in London, but if there was any to be had in this tournament, it would come by way of a good performance and result against the only other team in the tournament at or above Canada's level.
Needless to say, they didn't deliver that, though 4-0 wasn't an entirely fair representation of the game. Canada wasn't completely outclassed by any means, but lacked the cutting edge to take advantage of the chances that came their way, whereas the US, particularly Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach proved they absolutely don't have that problem. Morgan's speed created the early chance that she buried, and after that there wasn't really much doubt. Christine Sinclair seemed caught between playing up front and coming back into midfield, as if trying to do too much, and thus wasn't really a factor at all. Christina Julien had Canada's best chances, but was unable to finish. Melissa Tancredi? Well she started on the bench, a curious decision from John Herdman that really didn't work out, she was introduced for the second half but by then the game was over. The US team obviously has a lot of advantages over Canada, in both organisational and financial muscle, not to mention population figures which obviously helps with the strength in depth which really showed up in this game, and the thoroughly lopsided past history between the teams. Tonight's game would be just another reminder of all those things.
So, a chance at redemption and an opportunity to exorcise some demons and strike a psychological blow against the US went awry, but it really shouldn't take away from what was overall a very successful tournament for Canada on and off the pitch. Qualification was secured and if only for a few days, women's soccer got a lot of attention. The two main contributing factors to that once again did their part tonight, Sportsnet showing the game live across the country, and the supporters in Vancouver showing up in record numbers, over 25,000 this time, easily beating the crowd that showed up to Friday's Mexico game. Even without the feelgood ending of a win against the States, it should be considered as mission accomplished.
Do we know more about canada's chances of success at the Olympics? Not really. They beat the teams they should have beat, and didn't really come close to competing with the best team in the world. Almost exactly what I would have predicted before the tournament started. There'll be very few weak teams at the Olympics, so between now and then Canada has a lot of work to do to improve on their performance against the stronger teams. Post game, John Herdman said "There's still a bit more in this team, give us another 6 months and we'll make sure we're ready for London". This tournament was all about securing that opportunity, and in that regard, despite what happened tonight, it's job done.