It is hard to keep smiling when your dreams are dashed. Just ask the 54,000 people who had flocked to Vancouver's BC Place Stadium on Saturday 27 June to cheer on their home heroes in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup™, only for their hopes to be thwarted by the rock-like English back-line. But as the dust settles and the worst of the sadness and disappointment ebbs away, the time comes to take stock and look ahead to the future, in which a rising star in the Canada defence is destined to have a big say.
Kadeisha Buchanan was in tears when the final whistle was blown in Canada's 2-1 defeat, but she soon snapped out of it when her mind turned to the shape of things to come. "It's a big responsibility, because our future will only be bright through a team effort," the down-to-earth 19-year-old told FIFA.com. "But I know that I have to start taking on a leadership role now. I have been playing in this team for three years and I think I can do even more. There are a number of us in the team who are both young and experienced."
Ashley Lawrence, Adriana Leon and Jessie Fleming are other examples, but none of them display quite the maturity of Buchanan, who brought roars from the crowd every time she made a tackle and strode forward with the ball against England. "From the first minute to the last, we gave everything we could, so the loss wasn't for a lack of effort," the Ottawa Fury player said. "We just weren't able to get the goal that would have allowed us to dream. We came close in the final minutes and as the game went on we felt like we were getting nearer. I'm sure that if we'd have had a few more minutes, we'd have done it."
Learning from the best
Buchanan was thrown up front late on and did her utmost to grab an equaliser that would have put the Canadians back on track to reach the final. That is something she would have loved to achieve personally, but also for the sake of the older members of the squad, who have contributed so much to football in the country and may yet hang up their boots without tasting glory. "I know that playing alongside the likes of Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi and Erin McLeod won't last forever," said Buchanan, whom Canucks coach John Herdman has described as his "Christine Sinclair in defence". "I learn something every day, in every match, every training session and every moment I spend alongside them. They are up there among the best in this sport and by training with the best, I become a better defender."
This desire to constantly improve could yet be rewarded at the end of the tournament with the Hyundai Young Player Award, for which Buchanan is a serious contender despite being knocked out in the quarter-finals. However, she is not losing sight of the big picture: "We came really close to a place in the semi-finals, but our main target was to make people proud of us, to inspire the nation," she replied when asked whether the event had lived up to her expectations. "When I think about the support we've received and how sad the people who had cheered us on were at the end of the match, I tell myself that at least we've accomplished this mission."
These thoughts tallied with the rousing speech delivered by her captain in the dressing room after the game, where a mixture of regret and pride pervaded the atmosphere. "It was obviously a sad moment, but Christine took the floor to tell us to pick our heads up and that she was proud of us," Buchanan revealed. "The tournament ends here for us, but we've still got big things to come in the future."