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Limping to the Top: Canada draw Netherlands

The best and the worst of Canada's women's soccer team was on display to finish out the group stage of the tournament. Thankfully the knockout stages will give them new life.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadian Women's national team topped group A in the most Canadian soccer way possible: by conceding a late equalizer to the Netherlands.

While a 1-1 draw means 5 points for Canada and that they will play in the round of 16 on Sunday, it did little to prove to anyone that this team are a contender.

That means any celebration that Canada has accomplished the first stage of their mission at the 2015 Women's World Cup will be muted.

Ashley Lawrence had the goal for Canada, the culmination of solid play throughout the tournament for the 20-year-old. Other than Kadeisha Buchanan she has been Canada's best player so far in this competition.

She is one of the few Canadian players who has been able to hold the ball well throughout the tournament and it has been a huge benefit to the Canadian midfield so far.

However it is a goal at the other end that will leave a lasting impression. Kirsten Van De Ven's equalizer was a microcosm of everything that has happened for Canada so far in this tournament.

It means they come out of the group stage without momentum, and for every one step they took forward they took another back.

Canada started tonight's game with the best opening they have had so far in the tournament, they looked completely dominant like they should against an opponent who were playing in their first ever World Cup.

An all-important second goal never came as the team struggled to create anything cohesive in the final third once again. That set up the 87th minute defensive breakdown that led to the first goal Canada has conceded in the tournament.

Between now and Sunday, when they start the knockout stage of the tournament, this goal is going to linger on in the memory of both the team and Canadian supporters when they only had to last three more minutes in order to carry positivity forward.

It was the goal that made topping the group seem like a hollow victory as Canada collected the second smallest point total possible. The only way they could have done it easier was if every team in the group drew every game, which considering how things went isn't that implausible.

In the past it wouldn't have mattered, winning a group at a World Cup event is massive for Canadian soccer no matter the circumstances.

But this team should be held to a higher standard, because they are better than what they have showed so far this competition. They proved that in London, and have proven that in the buildup to this tournament.

Contrary to what some have suggested this isn't the same team Carolina Morace coached to failure in Germany four years ago. In fact potentially no Canadian team ever before could have three straight underwhelming performances and still advance to the next round.

If nothing else that should give Canadian fans hope that if this team can finally reach the next gear in the knockout stages that there could be something to finally cheer about after all.

What has given Canada the most hope so far in this tournament is why it is different from that Carolina Morace side in 2011. It has been the performance of Allysha Chapman and Kadeisha Buchanan in defense.

Today it was Jessie Fleming and Ashley Lawrence showing that age is just a number in the midfield. Meanwhile Adriana Leon has continued to impress up top. Now it's time for the players that Canada has always counted on to rise to the occasion.

Many forget that Canada, and even Christine Sinclair for that matter, didn't truly arrive on the Olympic stage until a 2-0 victory over Britain in the quarterfinals.

The point is that it is the knockout stages that everyone remembers. It will be Sunday then that Canada start making memories.