- Kenneth Heiner-Moller took charge of Canada’s women’s team last month
- Former Denmark coach is preparing for France 2019 qualifiers in October
- Canadians set to play in the 2018 Algarve Cup in Portugal this week
It was news that surprised the world of women’s football, as well as supporters of Canada’s national teams. Just a week into 2018, John Herdman made the unique move of taking over Canada’s men’s national team by leaving his role as women’s coach of the North American nation.
The unexpected switch meant new leadership would take charge of Canada’s women’s national team programme. On that same day in early January, former assistant coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller was given the responsibility of building on Herdman’s efforts with the Canadian women, as qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ comes into focus. In landing his new role, the former Denmark women’s coach was enthusiastic for what lied ahead.
“I was definitely excited about getting the opportunity to be the head coach of the [Canadian] women’s national team,” Heiner-Moller said in an interview with FIFA.com. “Not many people wanted John [Herdman] to leave, but it was what he wanted to do, so for me to take over from him, I’m very excited about it. I’m also confident about where this team is going. I think there is a lot of talent in this team.”
Herdman’s time with the Canadian women saw some strong relationships develop between the Englishman and the players, factors that proved essential in the country’s bronze medal achievements at the last two Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments. As a part of the latest podium success at Rio 2016, Heiner-Moller believes he can build a similar bond with his new charges.
“I don’t compare myself to John, as I have to find my own way around this team,” he said. “As I was allowed to be a coach, as an assistant coach under John, it makes the job so much easier for me. I also think this [coaching change] might have been the best outcome for the players. Having someone be so close to the team, so they know what they are getting, is definitely the upside of it.”
Kenneth Heiner-Moller profile
- Born 17 January 1971 in Gentofte, Denmark
- Played professionally in his homeland and Hungary
- Led Denmark to the 2007 Women’s World Cup in China
- Is a fluent speaker of Danish and English
Big year ahead
Heiner-Moller’s tenure begins this week in Portugal where Canada will make its seventh appearance at the Algarve Cup after being drawn in Group B with Korea Republic, Russia, and Sweden. For the experienced Dane, the tournament is an important dress rehearsal ahead of October’s CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup, which will serve as the region’s qualifiers for France 2019. “It’s about building on what we are doing and then adding some more to different parts of our game that we want to improve on,” he said. “It’s something we are good at, but also something we can definitely be even better at.”
The Canadians are also keen to see where they stand among the elite of women’s football after arranging friendlies with Women’s World Cup hosts France (9 April) and European powerhouse Germany (10 June). “We have an ambition of being number one in the world, so we have to see if we are on track or are we off track, and if there is something we need to change or develop on,” Heiner-Moller said. “We’ve got to have those snapshots of where we’re at, so [these friendlies] are a great opportunity to see if we’re on track.”
An evolving game
Heiner-Moller’s many years as a coach in women’s football has allowed him to see the game’s ongoing growth. For the 47-year-old, the improved quality of play on the pitch has been the most intriguing development.
“It used to be that you could defend and counter-attack to win tournaments, but you can’t do that anymore,” he said. “You have to be able to control all the moments of the game to be a successful team throughout a tournament. You don’t see games played at one pace, you see the rhythm change throughout a game. From my perspective, that makes it a better game to watch.”