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Olympics2012Herdman has Canadian soccer team believing

Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012 | 08:02 PM

Categories: Olympics2012

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Carmelina Moscato of Canada, right, celebrates with opening goal scorer Jonelle Filigno after the team's big victory on Friday. (Julian Finney/Getty Images) Carmelina Moscato of Canada, right, celebrates with opening goal scorer Jonelle Filigno after the team's big victory on Friday. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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It's premature to build that John Herdman statue outside of the Canadian Soccer Association headquarters on Metcalfe St. in Ottawa but, for what it's worth, ahead of Day 7 of the London Games, their head coach had Canadian women's soccer team convinced they were capable of an immortalizing performance - and they delivered.

It's premature to build that John Herdman statue outside of the Canadian Soccer Association headquarters on Metcalfe St. in Ottawa but, for what it's worth, ahead of Day 7 of the London Games, their head coach had Canadian women's soccer team convinced they were capable of an immortal performance - and they delivered.

From front to back, the Canadian squad showed in their 2-0 win Friday that they were deserving of standing with the best in the world. It's not a side they've always shown - even in this tournament - but as this Games has progressed, so too has this women's squad. And on this day, even against the host, Great Britain, and their partisan crowd, Canada did not shy away from the physical attacking style that makes them so dangerous.

They could have come into this game, with all of pressure Team GB was going to bring, and simply sit back and absorb it. No one would have blamed them if they waited for their opponent to tire out. It would have been the sensible approach. They did it against Sweden, it worked and they ended up getting a result that got them into the knockout round - which now has them guaranteed a chance to play for a medal.

Whether they play for a gold or a bronze will be determined when they face the tournament favourite on Monday (the Americans) but for now, what is important is to highlight how a Canadian squad came out against, let's face it, a better opponent and played to win.

No signs of self-destruction

Forget a year ago under former head coach Carolina Morace, forget the decade before that under head coach Even Pellarud, Friday was not your typical Canadian squad.

Under Morace, they played tight, controlled football. The passes were short, so were the tempers - from the coaches and players - and it resulted in a squad that ultimately self-destructed. Their bubble, which was built up under the guise of beating weaker squads on the way to the World Cup, had them running falsely high before they met with an opponent that provided them with an ounce of fight, was easily popped.

This came after a generation that was built on the Pellarud system of kick and chase. It was a style that didn't promote cohesion but rewarded panic. If Canada was ever in a tight spot, the best thing for the squad was to boot the ball so far down the pitch it was never seen again - thus, temporarily relieving the pressure.

It spoke nothing of how to build an attack, nothing of keeping possession and especially nothing of a team with confidence.

Those days are gone. Friday, under Herdman, Canada played with a level of control that rarely has been seen from a Canadian side - men or women. Even with a backline that has been decimated by injuries, the Canadian women's side took a stuck-in style and put the boots to a talented Great Britain side that didn't manage a shot into well in the second half.

On the other end of the pitch, a Great Britain defence which hadn't allowed a goal all tournament, succumb to two finishes from a Canadian side not known for its set pieces. The first came on a corner from Lauren Sesselmann - who had sprayed numerous balls wide and behind the net so far in this Games. In the twelfth minute though, she delivered a perfect ball into the 18-yard-box, which Jonelle Foligno met on the hop and finished into the top of the Great Britain net. Glorious.

It wasn't safe

Less than 15 minutes later, thanks to a penetrating run from Desiree Scott which would draw a foul, Christine Sinclair found herself in a threatening position. Off the free kick, she made no mistake, easily beating the Great Britain keeper and then proceeded to make the long run into the waiting arms of her teammates on the sidelines. Again, glorious.

The fact that Sinclair didn't shy away from the strike, the fact that Foligno met the ball with such confidence, the fact that a belabored backline kept the home team out of range all game, speaks to why Friday's performance was special.

Canada decided on this day that they were willing to put their past behind them - the fears that confronted them - and meet the day with their natural talents.

It wasn't safe, it was secure but it was very much an Olympics performance.

Monday, they'll face an American squad, one that they've not beaten under this regime and only four times in history.  It's a daunting task and one that stands between them being assured of a medal and still having to fight for one.

For the first time in this tournament - and despite the broadcaster jamming that 'I Believe' song down everyone's throat - this is a team that is buying into Herdman's approach.

And if, by some miracle, they beat the Americans on Monday, nothing short of a statue on Metcalfe St. will be the reward John Herdman, after only 10 months at the helm, is deserving of.

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