Canada return to the world stage at this month’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup hoping to emulate the recent heroics of the senior national team. The Canucks this week claimed their maiden Women’s Olympic Football Tournament podium finish, and the first Canadian Olympic team medal since 1936, just 12 months after the disappointment of being the first team to exit the FIFA Women’s World Cup™.
Similarly, Andrew Olivieri’s young side will travel to Japan seeking to bounce back from the shock of failing to qualify for the last FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup two years ago, which also, coincidentally, was held in Germany. The shock of missing Germany 2010 marked a significant fall from the heady heights of 2002 when Canada hosted the maiden FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, with the Christine Sinclair-led home side reaching the final, only to be edged out by North American rivals USA.
Perhaps it is with this sense of affinity for the tournament that has Olivieri setting his goals high. Drawn alongside Korea DPR, Norway and Argentina, Canada will meet three very different football styles in Group C. Progress from the group will set-up a possible showdown with either USA or Germany, both two-time winners.
“In one sense the draw was actually a little bit disappointing not to get one of the leading teams in the world, purely to give our team the exposure and experiences that hopefully that can take into the senior team one day,” Olivieri told FIFA.com. “Having said that it is by no means an easy group at all, and we will fully respect each of our opponents.
“Our philosophy is to grow throughout the tournament and improve with every game. To go beyond the group stage is our initial goal. Then, whoever we may meet after that, which likely will be Germany or the US or who knows, perhaps China... we would really look forward to testing ourselves against one of those teams and hopefully progressing.”
A quarter-final meeting with USA would allow the opportunity to overturn the result in qualifying, when the Stars & Stripes earned a late win to deny Canada a third continental crown.
The coming weeks in Japan will perhaps be more important to Canada than any of the 16 competing nations, with the North Americans to host the next edition in two years time, before then welcoming the world for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Asked if the primary focus was on achieving results or developing players for Canada 2015, Olivieri said the two goals go hand-in-hand. “We are very mindful of developing players but by no means is winning of secondary importance,” he said. “Winning is part of the learning process and with that comes experience to compete at senior level."
So will Canada’s young Class of 2012 draw motivation from the achievements of Sinclair and Co over the past fortnight? “Definitely,” says an unequivocal Olivieri, who will be making his debut on the world stage. “These girls will be inspired by what has happened at the Olympics over the past few weeks. They have seen what Canada can achieve and hopefully it will help take the team to another level in Japan.”