So Canada's mens team crapped out of the Gold Cup, not even making the quarter finals, disappointing but not completely unexpected. The under 17 team didn't get out of the group stages, but that was very much expected, and to get a 2-2 tie with England, with the equaliser scored by the goalie, well that was a great moment.
The real hope for success though was the women's team, in the World Cup. Over the last year or so, there was a lot of good results and real positive momentum. Head Coach Carolina Morace was lauded for bringing a much more attractive, and more importantly successful style to the team, and backed to the hilt when she threatened to resign. In the run up to the cup there was serious and seemingly legitimate talk of Canada being a dark horse contender, probable semi finalists, and at the very least they'd be making the quarter finals. Their world ranking of 6 seemed to confirm all that talk, so for once Canadian fans could have confidence that they could cheer on their team with a genuine sense of optimism.
Losing the first game to Germany was no disgrace, as the Germans are a very good team. Christine Sinclair's goal, and overall heroic performance, with all the Gordie howe and Chuck Norris jokes and sense of pride that Canadians are tough that followed that masked the fact that Canada were seriously outplayed, and overly satisfied with the loss. Still though, fun is fun, and again, the Germans were a very good team, so no harm done. The real World Cup for Canada started today with the game against France.
France are no mugs themselves, but most Canadians, myself included, expected a tough game but one that Canada would win, and then beat Nigeria and move on to the quarter finals. Instead, we got France 4, Canada 0.
4-0! Where the hell did that come from? What the hell happened to the team that had strode confidently through the last year or so, winning tournaments, giving as good as they got against the best teams in the world. Credit should be given to the French, who really knocked Canada out of their stride. When Canada had the ball, the French pressed and didn't give them a moment to settle and pass their way through midfield. Canada reacted in the worst way possible, reverting to long ball tactics that got them nowhere, and just brought more pressure on to them. 1-0 down at half time, Canadian supporters were stunned and nervous but surely they'd be able to change things around and come back right? They weren't just going to fold like the mens side regularly do were they?
They did. Nothing really changed, the few times Canada worked the ball close to goal, they kept stumbling, tripping over the ball, or losing control of the ball at the crucial time. France kept playing well, Canada didn't defend well and thus it was 4-0 and Canada are eliminated even before their final group game against Nigeria. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert enough to start going through what needs to be changed, for that you really should be following Darlington legend Jason De Vos on twitter or at cbc.ca.
I'm just stunned really. My old blog Cruel Geography had the tag line 'when supporting the local team means a lifetime of rarely alleviated struggle and misery'. A salute to those who don't gloryhunt, those masochists who recognise the pain to come, don't shy away from it but wear it like a badge of honour, and just keep on supporting anyway. There's no geography more cruel than being a football fan in Canada, and there's many many people who've been supporting and suffering for a lot longer than I have.
But this, this was supposed to be that rare moment or alleviation. This is when we were supposed to be able to enjoy seeing Canada hold their own, and then some, this is what would make it all worth it. Instead, we got 4-0. They came up against a good team that was playing well and making it difficult for them, and they crumbled. Canadian fans get one more kick in the nuts to round off the summer, another badge of honour to display to prove we've earned that far off mythical time when it does actually go well. Did we really need another of those though?