“I told each and every one of them to hold their heads up because we gave it our all, we showed them what Canadian soccer is all about.” These were the defiant words of heartbroken captain Ashley Lawrence as her Canada side fell to a 2-1 defeat against Korea DPR at Azerbaijan 2012.
While visibly wounded to be dumped out of the competition at the quarter-final stage, the 17-year-old veteran of two FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cups was proud, positive and looking towards a bright future with her team.
“I think I’m going to look back on this tournament with a positive outlook, I’ve grown myself and as a team we have developed so much as players and gained so much experience,” the hard-working midfielder told FIFA.com.
“Playing against different opponents allows you to adapt to different types of play so of course it’s going to help our development. It’s all a learning process and we’re just growing from here.”
Two late efforts by Korean goal-machine Ri Un Sim did the damage on Thursday night, and though Nichelle Prince’s strike provided hope, it was not enough.
“We did stick to our game plan, there were times when we slipped up and had to clean up our messes so I guess we just need to be a bit sharper, but at the end of the day we just did our best and that’s all we can ask for.”
As her tear-stained team-mates trudged away from defeat towards the bus outside the 8km Stadium, which would eventually lead them home, Lawrence was looking forward to the potential-laden road rolling out in front of this team.
Thoughts turn to upcoming tournaments
The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 is destined for Canadian soil, but a year prior to that the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup arrives as a precursor, posing an exciting opportunity for her and the young charges from North America.
“It’s very exciting; obviously it’s a big advantage getting the home crowd behind you so I’m definitely looking forward to that. I think it’s easy to see we have a lot of talent from back to front so I think we’ll definitely be seeing these players there.”
And like all her team-mates, the inspiration provided by Christine Sinclair and Co’s Olympic bronze-winning performance has led Lawrence to want to make her own mark with her team. “You’ve seen how the senior women have improved and left a legacy for us, and we just want to make a difference for Canada ourselves so it is very exciting.
“I think we’ve brought it at the U-17 level and now we’re looking ahead to 2014. Going away from this we’re just going to go back and continue training, training as hard as we possibly can.”
Coach Bryan Rosenfeld’s pride in his team was clear after the final whistle, as they battled throughout against their much-fancied opponents. “I am very proud of my team, they showed character and fought until the last minute. That is part of our make-up and DNA – as footballers we never give up.
“I think you have seen a new brand of football from Canadians here. The intention was not to waste time or go into penalties, we kept trying to attack. Unfortunately, mistakes and little details can damage you at this level.”
It was his 11th game in charge at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, and he departed his third tournament on a positive note. “What’s important is that female football in Canada has moved forward and we have seen some quality players. I am happy where we are and what we have shown. I think we can grow from this experience.”