Canada’s players were unable to hold back the tears as the final whistle sounded at the end of their 2-1 loss to Korea DPR in Saitama on Monday. Knocked out all too early at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012, they were left to reflect on what might have been, having kicked off their campaign with a 6-0 defeat of Argentina and made ambitious plans for the future.
Two back-to-back defeats quickly put paid to their hopes, though with the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ coming up on home soil in 2015, not to mention the 2014 edition of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, the young Canadians have plenty to look forward to in the years ahead, with bright prospects like Christine Exeter already contemplating the chance to take on the world's elite in three years’ time.
“One way of getting over this defeat is to look to the future,” the Louisiana University forward told FIFA.com after their elimination. “Playing in 2015 is a personal dream of mine and I’m going to work hard towards that. I’m still studying but I hope to take part in the training camps next year. I also hope that John Herdman [Canada’s senior national team coach] has been impressed by some of us. It’s not for now, but it’s definitely an objective that motivates us.”
There is another very good reason why the patient Exeter has every chance of making the transition to the senior team, as she explained: “A lot of players are going to be leaving the national side and I think that’s going to open up more and more space for this generation. That’s sure to lift our morale in the next few months because this is not the end for us, far from it. Knowing that there’s something really big coming up is going to make us even stronger.”
Like Exeter, the Canadian players set to contest the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 later this month also have future goals to fulfil, chief among them the opportunity to represent the country at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in 2014, also to be staged on home soil. Making that point in the press conference that followed his side’s defeat to the North Koreans was Canuck coach Andrew Olivieri.
“With the U-20 World Cup in mind we’re going to be keeping an eye on the girls who’ll be in Azerbaijan,” he said. “And as far as the 2015 World Cup’s concerned I think a lot of players from my team are going to be there too. Playing here has been crucial to the team’s development and I hope they can take the opportunities that come their way in the future.”
The next few years promise to be busy ones for the North Americans and are sure to provide a major boost to the popularity of the women’s game in Canada. Indeed, Exeter got a little taste of what might be coming her way in 2014 and 2015 as she walked off the pitch at the Komaba Stadium, arm in arm with three of her team-mates.
Called over to the stands by a small band of Canada fans, the players were presented with the national flag and a bundle of CDs, a gesture much appreciated by Exeter and her colleagues and an indication of what they can expect in the coming years.
“We’ve been really taken aback by the reaction of some of the fans here,” she said. “They’ve given us gifts and told us how proud they were of us. I hope those sentiments will be even stronger come 2015.”