More than Lionel Messi. More than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sitting one goal back of United States international Abby Wambach’s 184, Canadian soccer icon Christine Sinclair has the opportunity to cement her legacy globally (if she hasn’t already).
Sinclair will try to eclipse Wambach’s goal total when the Canadian women’s national team opens their 2020 Concacaf Olympic Qualifying tournament on Wednesday. Wambach holds the record for the most international goals ever scored by a male or female, and if Sinclair can find the back of the net once she’ll tie the retired striker’s record, while scoring twice puts her on a pedestal of her own.
Vying to qualify for their fourth straight Olympics, the Canadian women will face St. Kitts & Nevis later Wednesday evening in Edinburg, Texas, the first of three group matches en route to the Concacaf semifinals on February 7 that will determine which two nations qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
However, the eighth-ranked Canadian side (according to FIFA World Rankings) enter the tournament knowing they belong.
“I think we are very ready to start the tournament,” said Kenneth Heiner-Møller, Canada’s women’s national team head coach. “We have seen in the past two weeks that getting the crew back together and having a few sessions on a high level has definitely given us some confidence. We are looking forward to kick off the tournament.”
“It’s important for us to go into this tournament with confidence,” added Canadian fullback Ashley Lawrence, recipient of country’s 2019 Player of the Year award. “We want to get the result and start on a good note. We are going to stay focused and stick to our game plan.”
Part of the CONCACAF region, Canada will face the aforementioned St. Kitts and Nevis this evening, before taking on Jamaica on Feb. 1 and Mexico on Feb. 4 to round out Group A play.
What will likely be the Canadians most important match, however, will come on Feb. 7: a semifinal crossover vs. one of the top-two teams from Group B, which includes the United States, Costa Rica, Haiti, and Panama, as the finalists of the Qualifying Tournament will both automatically secure their place for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Back-to-back Bronze medalists in women’s soccer’s most prestigious tournament, Canada has qualified for the past three Olympic Games through Concacaf’s two available spots. However, overshadowing the country’s bid to return to the big stage for the fourth straight Games will of course be the Canadian Soccer Player of the Decade’s quest for the all-time record.
“[My teammates] have done a pretty good job at keeping it pretty quiet,” Sinclair told reporters on Tuesday, when asked about the record. “Today was the most it has probably been built up. To be honest, they’re probably looking forward to it more than I am.
“I just know how important this tournament is and how important the games are as we move on. Obviously I’d like to get it over with (in a positive way) just because I don’t want it to be a focus for the team in the coming weeks.”
While Sinclair is quick to downplay the individual milestone, the magnitude of this accomplishment is difficult to describe. Most players around the world grow up dreaming about one day being able to put on a jersey to represent their country. Almost everyone who has a passion for the beautiful game has dreamt about scoring in a World Cup Final. But the all-time international goal-scoring record?
That seemed unthinkable, a feat that was almost destined for the legends of the game like Ronaldo, Pele, or Diego Maradona.
Well, Canada, we have our international soccer legend, and her name is Christine Sinclair.
- This is the Canadian women’s first official match of 2020. Canada recently played two closed-door training matches across the course of their last three camps, however, they will take the field in regulated competition for the first time this year Wednesday evening.
- Wednesday’s match will be the first-ever encounter between the two nations, with the 127th ranked St. Kitts & Nevis reaching the final round of a Concacaf women’s tournament for the first time in their program history.
HOW TO WATCH
The Canada match kicks off will be broadcast live in Canada on OneSoccer.ca (17.00 ET / 14.30 PT) as well as on Rogers TV (Digital TV channel 368 and Ignite TV channel 430).
Jeffrey P. Nesker also has you covered right here on WTR with a Live Match Thread closer to game time for what will possibly be a historic night for Canadian soccer.