Canada's U-20 women must be judged by results | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerCanada's U-20 women must be judged by results

Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 | 04:18 PM

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Canada's Ashley Lawrence (10) shies away from heavy traffic in a 1-0 loss to Ghana at National Soccer Stadium in Toronto. (Chris Young/Canadian Press) Canada's Ashley Lawrence (10) shies away from heavy traffic in a 1-0 loss to Ghana at National Soccer Stadium in Toronto. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

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Canada's 1-0 loss to powerful and technically proficient Ghana was not a disaster, but it certainly ratchets up the pressure ahead of Friday's game against Finland (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).

You can argue it any way you like. You could put forward a perfectly reasonable theory that it is about crucial development, gaining experience or achieving a certain standard of performance. 

And to an extent, you would be absolutely right. But ultimately, it is all about results.

Tournament soccer, like any competitive sport, is about winners and losers. By definition, there are many more of the latter because in any competition there can only ever be one winner.

Canada's youngsters are already playing catch up. It is not a good place to be as host of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. The opening-day loss to more powerful and technically proficient Ghana was not a disaster, but it certainly ratchets up the pressure ahead of Game 2 against Finland.

Taking positives out of negative situations is important. Confidence, as an individual and in one's teammates, is pivotal to any kind of tangible success. Despite the loss, there were encouraging signs that must come to the fore when Canada returns to action on Friday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).

SCHEDULE: U-20 Women's World Cup on CBC

This is a team trying to play football. For the most part, there is a method and a willingness to connect the dots from back to front. By and large, the days of dump and chase are gone for good, replaced by pass and move. For that alone, we should all be eternally grateful.   

Several of these players are already senior internationals. The likes of Kadeisha Buchanan, Jessie Fleming and substitute Nichelle Prince caught the eye against the Ghanaians. The must-win matchup against the Scandinavians will be a true test of their collective leadership qualities.  

While confidence is key, composure is crucial. It is never more so than when those rare goal-scoring opportunities present themselves. In this department, Canada was found badly wanting. Creating the chances is important in itself, but having a cool head to finish them makes the game so much easier.

Cue the broken record about unearthing the next Christine Sinclair. Canada's greatest female footballer was just 19 when she hammered 10 goals in the inaugural tournament a dozen years ago. Since then, the women's game has changed radically but simply put, Sinclair is a once-in-a-generation player. Her natural successor is nowhere to be seen.

This group of Canadian teenagers is being groomed to replace the class of 2002. The U-20 Women's World Cup on home soil gives them a unique chance to continue their soccer education, compete in a real tournament against their peers and feel the force of a home nation willing them to succeed.

For a few, it is genuine preparation for the Women's World Cup itself. Canada will welcome the world in less than a year and there is only one way to tell if these youngsters will be ready. Throw them in at the deep end and see whether they sink or swim. Many will not make it to shore. 

What Canadian soccer doesn't need is another embarrassing own goal. It cannot afford a repeat of 2007, when this country was an excellent host, but fielded a hopelessly inadequate team for the men's U-20 World Cup. International legacies are born from tournaments such as these.

These players have a responsibility to themselves and to their country. They have been playing and preparing most of their lives for this moment. Once given the chance, they are engaging our emotional investment and, as fans, we naturally want to celebrate homegrown winners.

For Canadian soccer to truly flourish, it must give us something to shout about. The women's program enjoys a profile rarely seen in traditional football-playing countries. We all remember how we felt about that Olympic medal they brought home from London in 2012.

Now we want more. And that all comes down to results. It is how any nation judges itself relative to others.

If we don't want the accompanying pressure to achieve them, there is a simple solution. Don't get involved in the first place.

Follow Nigel Reed on Twitter @Nigel_Reed 

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