Canada's soccer women looking ahead to Rio Olympics qualification
National team lost 2-1 to England in World Cup quarter-fnals
John Herdman doesn't want his players to forget their World Cup pain.
The Canadian women's national team was left bitterly disappointed this summer after crashing out of a tournament the hosts felt was there for the taking, losing 2-1 to England in a heartbreaking quarter-final.
Six months later and with preparations already well underway for 2016 Olympic qualifying, Canada's head coach hasn't sensed a World Cup hangover, but rather a renewed belief.
"I don't think you move past something like that," said Herdman. "You have to move through those things. You have to reframe. You have to look at the things that worked well for us that we were really happy about. And you have to look at other aspects where we need to grow."
With that in mind, Canada just wrapped up a four-team event over the weekend in Brazil that saw the squad finish second after losing the final 3-1 to the hosts.
Herdman brought a mixture of youth and experience to South America following a training camp in Vancouver, with teenagers Kennedy Faulknor (16), Deanne Rose (16), Gabrielle Carle (17) and Marie Levasseur (18) all making their full international debuts.
"What stood out was the performances of the team in some of the games where you really did get to see the quality that we could have moving forward," Herdman said in a telephone interview from Brazil. "The senior players have cultivated a culture where these kids can come in and really play in all phases."
As has been the case for some time, speed and scoring were among the areas where Canada was lacking at the World Cup. Herdman is hopeful that some of the new blood will help.
"I think the team is comfortable that we've got strategy and structure down," he said. "It's now bringing that alive — that winning mindset and just leaving everything out on the pitch every time."
"Qualifying is always a stressful time"
Canadian captain Christine Sinclair was among the veterans who made the trip to Brazil and said it was encouraging to see some of the younger players fulfil roles with another camp set for next month ahead of CONCACAF Olympic qualifying in February.
"Qualifying is always a stressful time, not going to lie," said Sinclair. "It always comes down to one game. You win, you're in. You lose, you're out. Football's a funny game sometimes. I've been on both sides of those games. You can't take any of these teams lightly."
Ranked 11th in the world by FIFA, Canada is in Group B along with No. 48 Trinidad and Tobago, No. 76 Guatemala and No. 89 Guyana. The United States (No. 1), Mexico (No. 26), Costa Rica (No. 34) and Puerto Rico (No. 108) make up Group A, with tournament's top two teams advancing to next summer's Rio Olympics as representatives for the region that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Canada won bronze at the 2012 Games in London, beating France 1-0 in a third-place game that came on the heels of a controversial extra-time loss to the U.S. that vaulted the team into the limelight back home.
Like the World Cup disappointment, it's a memory the players refuse to push aside.
"For a lot of us it was a childhood dream to win an Olympic medal. You don't forget about that," said Sinclair. "At the same time I think there's some unfinished business — at least that's how I feel. We have a determination to have it not be a one-time thing.
"Players are determined to try new things, players are determined to work harder than ever because we know we're right there. It's the last couple of percentages that will get us on the podium in Rio."