PARIS — They had been together so long and worked so hard, it was tough for Canada to hide the disappointment of being knocked out in the second round of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Canada’s tournament came to an abrupt end, losing to Sweden 1-0 in the Round of 16 here at the Parc des Princes on Monday.
Understandably, a few Canadian tears were shed after the game as the team had such high aspirations heading into the tournament.
“I thought we had a solid performance, just the final product was lacking,” said midfielder Sophie Schmidt. “We got a little exposed on their goal, but apart from all that, we left it all out there.”
Canada dictated play for most of the game, but conceded a goal on a Swedish counterattack lead by midfielder Kosovare Asllani. She picked up a turnover at midfield, took on the Canadian defence and played an outstanding pass to Stina Blackstenius, who slipped a shot past goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.
“That’s how football is,” Schmidt said. “I thought we had a brilliant first half, we just didn’t create a great enough chance where we scored, and I think that was lacking and was potentially the story of the tournament for us.”
Canada scored four goals in four games at the World Cup and lost consecutive games to the Netherlands and Sweden.
The Netherlands are defending European champions and Sweden are reigning Olympic silver medalists.
Canada had never advanced past the group stage at a World Cup held in Europe prior to this tournament.
“I think once they got their goal, it was tough to get back because their energy rose and their confidence increased,” Schmidt said. “To fight back, it was an uphill battle for us. We got close, but close isn’t good enough.”
Losing in the second round was extremely disappointing for Canada. The two-time Olympic bronze medalists were looking to add a World Cup title to its trophy case.
“I’m gutted,” Schmidt said. “I’m heartbroken, especially for the people that this is their last World Cup.”
ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF VAR
The Video Assistant Referee system has, unfortunately, been the talk of the tournament. And while Canada were on the wrong side of a VAR decision against the Netherlands, they had two go its way against Sweden.
Canada were awarded a penalty with just over 20 minutes to play when a shot from Desiree Scott hit the outstretched arm of Asllani inside the penalty area.
Janine Beckie stepped up to take the penalty and was stopped by goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, who made an outstanding diving save.
“I was hoping that was going to go in,” Scott said of her shot. “We were shouting to the ref for hand ball, thankfully VAR caught it and it was just unfortunate for us (didn’t score).”
THE FUTURE FOR CHRISTINE SINCLAIR
Christine Sinclair is not ready to call it quits, although she could use a little break from soccer after being eliminated with Canada from the World Cup.
Canada’s captain and best ever player is still a couple of goals shy of tying retired American striker Abby Wambach for the all-time international record.
Sinclair scored one goal in four games at the tournament, hit a crossbar, a goal post and passed up a penalty opportunity to Beckie against Sweden.
“This one will hurt, I think, because we played so well and we definitely had the team to go deeper in this tournament,” Sinclair said. “That’s disappointing. For me, just a little R and R and then I’ll head back to Portland and try to win a championship there.”
Sinclair turned 36 during the tournament and is still considered among the best strikers in the world. With the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon next summer, it’s unlikely she’ll retire from the national program yet. There is also the matter of trying to break the all-time record.
As far as the next Women’s World Cup in 2023, however?
“I don’t know about that,” Sinclair smiled. “We’ll see if (coach) Kenneth (Heiner-Moller) wants me around.”
WELL PREPARED FOR CANADA
Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson revealed his secret strategy in preparing for Canada after the match on Monday.
“I had the best preparation here today that you can have before a match like that,” Gerhardsson said through a translator. “I listened to four albums of Neil Young, which is Canada’s top performer. That’s how I prepare.”
The Neil Young worked for Gerhardsson, who was happy with his team’s performance in a 1-0 victory against Canada.
“We really performed well primarily in the second half,” he said. “The players are very courageous, they tried to play their way out of situations and in that way, we’re not just kicking the ball away, we were trying to keep it amongst ourselves.
“In the first half, we were very much on the defensive and it didn’t really work the way it should, but I still think we got one attempt on goal the first half. We defended the box quite well, but less so in midfield. Players like Hedvig have to step up to the plate in matches like this and be heroes.”
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest
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