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It Won’t Get the Hype, But This Bronze Just as Important for Canadian Soccer

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This time Canada earned everything they got on their road to a second consecutive Olympic podium finish.

Brazil v Canada Bronze Medal Match: Women's Football - Olympics: Day 14 Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

When Canadians remember the London Olympics, their memories undoubtedly turn first to Women’s Soccer. It was the story of those games for Canada, as their impassioned run to a bronze medal captured the attention of the country from coast to coast.

Despite winning another bronze medal again today, that won’t be the case in Rio. Canadians are more likely to remember these Olympics for Penny Oleksiak, or Derek Drouin, or Andre Degrasse. The Canadian women never got the same spotlight that they did four years ago.

No, the women’s soccer team won’t be the face of the Rio Olympics for Canadians. Their 2-1 win against Brazil today won’t be the defining moment of these games. But for those who have followed this national team for years, this second bronze medal is far more meaningful.

In London, there was an obvious hero: Christine Sinclair. The flag-bearer at the closing ceremonies of those games, Sinclair, was dubbed captain Canada for her hat-trick heroics in Canada’s 4-3 semi-final loss to the United States.

There was no hat-trick hero these Olympics, instead it was a collective effort that saw the team lose only once all tournament. Janine Beckie, Ashley Lawrence, Jessie Fleming, Stephanie Labbe, and, of course, Sinclair all had outstanding tournaments.

London will be remembered for its drama, for its near-perfect narrative. There was the evil Americans, the heartbreaking loss, the call. Then all of that counteracted by Diana Matheson’s goal deep into stoppage time to win Bronze against France. It felt like a fairytale.

Canada wrote their own script in Rio, however, and earned everything the got. Today’s bronze medal game was their best of the competition, as they outplayed Brazil for most of the 90 minutes. They didn’t need any stoppage time heroics.

Four years ago was about the present, about a golden generation of Canadian players reaching their peak. It was the best soccer that Sinclair will play in her career, and the same can be said for many of her teammates, most of whom weren’t around this time.

2016’s triumph for Canada is all about the future. Today it was Deanne Rose who played above her age to score for Canada and set up Sinclair’s winner. But throughout the tournament Beckie, Lawrence, Kadeisha Buchanan, Fleming, Shelina Zadorsky and Rebecca Quinn all came up big for the team. All are under 24 years of age.

Canada’s last bronze medal provided a spotlight, and a shaky foundation upon which they could build. The hope was that, eventually, Canada could get back to this level as a result of the inspiration and exposure that win caused.

Without that win, today wouldn’t have been possible, or at least it would have been a lot more unlikely. The confidence that this team showed today was one of a group who had been here before, a testament to the legacy that the veterans players have carried.

Few could have seen the progress that Canada made in just four years. John Herdman has been able to rather seamlessly move veterans out of the team while replacing them with capable young talents who are ready for the pressure that has inevitably been put on this team.

This tournament was the passing of a torch, which is why it was so impressive that the Canadians were still able to grab bronze with their free hand. The fact that they did only bodes well for the future of the national team program.