In the world of women's football, Canada has long been toiling in the shadow of her southern neighbour. But they are hoping things are about to change as they welcome a new head coach in the form of former Italian icon Carolina Morace. FIFA.com caught up with the recently appointed Canuck boss a few weeks into her new role.
From the outset, the coach's ambitions are clear. "Canada's current world ranking of 11th is an underachievement," Morace, who scored more than 100 goals in 152 caps for Italy, told FIFA.com from her first training camp in sunny California. "We are working on the fundamentals and the little details every day now, and I believe this type of work will help in closing the gap between us and the best teams in the world."
The Canadian women's national team has improved markedly over the course of the last decade, but they have still only won three matches against USA in 37 attempts. This is a disparity Morace is keen to address. "We respect what the USA have accomplished in the women's game," said the Italian; a tireless advocate for women's football and former coach of the Italian nation team. Having said that, this is a new beginning for Canada and we are looking to, over time, become one of the most consistent teams in the world."
Morace takes over the reins from former FIFA Women's World Cup winning coach Even Pellerud, who guided the Canucks to two consecutive women's world finals in a nine-year tenure. During that time the Canadian team saw a marked improvement, developing a reputation for an aggressive and physical approach to the game, one which Morace is eager to refine.
This is a new beginning for Canada
"I come from a different soccer culture than him (Pellerud)," said Morace, who has assembled an all-female coaching staff. "We need to focus more on keeping possession of the ball and attacking with clarity and effectiveness. It is also very important to give the players the tools to become more free-thinking on the field. There are three different ways to build the game and we will be looking to use all of them as each has their advantages and disadvantages."
Morace's presence is not the only change in the complexion of the Canadian squad. The team is undergoing a period of transition, following the phasing out of former star Charmaine Hooper and the emergence of new faces to complement veterans like Kara Lang, Melissa Tancredi and Erin McLeod. One player who Morace rightly singles out for special attention is Canada's top scorer, Christine Sinclair. "She (Sinclair) is not just a great scorer, but she is the team's captain and leader," said the new coach, who holds the distinction of being the only woman to manage a professional men's side. "She is very simple and humble person and every day she practices with maximum effort. I am sure that through her drive she can continue to improve on all of her qualities as a person and a player."
Canada were knocked out of the last FIFA Women's World Cup at the group stage, and followed that up with a run to the quarter-finals at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing, where they lost again to the US in extra time. With Canada often marked as a ‘sleeping giant' in the women's game, the powers that be in the North American country are hoping Morace is the one to build further on the good work of her predecessor.
"In Canada I have found an enthusiastic group of players willing to adapt to my methodology," continued Morace. "It is important to teach intelligence and so far the team is adapting really quickly to what is being asked of them as players."
The first major test to the new coach's methodology will come at the next CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup, likely to take place in late 2010 or early 2011. The competition will qualify North, Central America and the Caribbean's representatives to the next FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany in 2011.