It is hard to take positives when conceding a goal deep into extra time and losing a match you have led on no fewer than three occasions. Even so, the very manner of Canada’s exit from the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 at the hands of USA is a sign of the progress the Canucks have made in recent times, allowing them to take some consolation from Monday evening’s shattering 4-3 defeat.
“This is going to give the girls a lot of confidence in the end,” their British coach John Herdman told FIFA.com at the end of a memorable night in Manchester. “They’ve taken a huge step forward. We gave as good as we got and there were times when we even outplayed USA, who beat us 4-0 in the qualifying competition in January. We took the lead three times and Christine [Sinclair] scored a hat-trick in an Olympic semi-final. We came close to pulling it off.”
Canada’s run to the semis at London 2012 is a marked improvement on their efforts at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, when they exited the tournament at the first hurdle after three defeats in their group games, with Herdman taking over from the Italian Carolina Morace shortly afterwards.
The difference between that Canada side and the one that will now go forward to contest the bronze medal match against France on Thursday did not go unnoticed by USA skipper Christie Rampone, who knows a thing or two about their neighbours from the north.
“I’m so thrilled about how we achieved our win right now, but you have to give credit to them and say how much they’ve improved since they changed coach,” the 37-year-old defender told FIFA.com, just minutes after Alex Morgan’s dramatic winner for the Stars and Stripes. “We’ve played Canada a few times since then and today you could see that they’ve adapted to the new tactical system that John [Herdman] has brought in and that they believe in it. That’ll give them confidence.”
Despite achieving such progress with more or less the same group of players as were in Germany one year ago, Herdman chose to play down his contribution: “If we changed anything, it was to make a cultural shift. The players have probably got more responsibility now to contribute to tactical aspects. It’s all a question of communication, and I’m happy with some of the things I’ve seen because they show that we’ve communicated well.”