Soccer can be really simple sometimes, as it was yesterday. Ultimately, the sport comes down to which team can take their chances, and which team fails to do so.
That was the difference in yesterday’s Olympic semi-final between Canada and Germany. The Germans were clinical when they needed to be, while the Canadians were wasteful in front of goal.
That is why Germany is playing for Gold on Friday, while Canada will be playing for its second straight bronze. It is the slimmest of margins, in a game that really could have gone either way. For at least tonight, that is going to give this Canadian team nightmares.
But when they look back at this game, at this tournament, in fact, no matter how Friday goes, hopefully, they will remember the positives. This afternoon was a gutsy performance, where their execution let them down but their willpower certainly didn’t.
They weren’t afraid of Germany, as so many other Canadian teams have seemed in the past. Instead of being tentative and sitting back Canada attacked Germany, believing they could beat them. They did so even before falling behind early in the match.
For most of the game. Canada were on the front foot as they pressed to Germans many times but could not break them. In many ways it was the reverse of how they have won games the majority of this tournament: by being strong enough defensively and lethal enough offensively.
Canada had a few golden opportunities, pun somewhat intended, but could not bury them when they mattered. The closest they came was a ball off the line before the end of the first half as the finishing that has been with them all tournament disappeared.
The team was forced to play from behind after Kadeisha Buchanan gave the Germans a penalty just 20 minutes into the match. It was a brutal challenge, unnecessary, and unfortunately played a big role in the loss.
Sliding in too much remains a big flaw in Buchanan’s game, it almost cost Canada against France and did so against Germany. However, it is worth remembering, despite being around the national team setup for so long she is still only 20 years of age. Her best days are still in front of her.
That’s the case for most of this team, and the reason that while this loss will sting it is unlikely to linger. This tournament proved definitively that Canada can hang with the top teams in the world, and they can do so on the back of their next generation.
Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Janine Beckie and Jessie Fleming, that is a core of players around which a team can be built for the next decade. They are now all battle tested at the highest level, and will be hungry to get back to the heights they achieved at this tournament.
Others still showed glimpses that they will be important members of this team for years to come. When called upon, Rebecca Quinn, was a rock in the backline. Meanwhile, Diane Rose and Nichelle Prince looked consistently dangerous in limited minutes up front.
While yesterday’s loss marked the end of Canada’s chances to secure gold in Rio, this tournament moved the program forward in ways that few were expecting. If Canadian women’s soccer continues on its current path there will be more games like this in the future.