Canada downs Mex­ico as Tan­credi, Wilkin­son, Nault say good­bye to women’s team

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY JOSHUA CLIP­PER­TON THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

When the ref­eree blew the fi­nal whis­tle on the ca­reers of three Cana­dian women’s soccer icons, the mes­sage from Melissa Tan­credi, Rhian Wilkin­son and Marie-Eve Nault was clear — the torch is yours to carry from this point for­ward.

Canada picked up a 3-2 vic­tory over Mex­ico in an in­ter­na­tional friendly on Satur­day that cel­e­brated the na­tional team’s back-to-back Olympic bronze medals and also marked the end of the road for a trio that played 377 times for their coun­try.

“They mean ev­ery­thing, they give ev­ery­thing,” Cana­dian head coach John Herd­man said of Tan­credi, Wilkin­son and Nault. “Their whole adult life has been spent with this team. They don’t know any­thing dif­fer­ent ... and you only have to go into our locker-room to start to re­al­ize what they mean to each other.

“Each one of them has got some­thing in their iden­tity that Cana­di­ans can re­late to, whether it’s the grit of Tan­credi, the al­tru­is­tic­ness of MarieEve or just that ‘true north’ of Rhian.”

All three play­ers were joined by fam­ily mem­bers on the pitch for a cer­e­mony fol­low­ing the game, with Tan­credi’s grand­par­ents sur­pris­ing her af­ter fly­ing in from On­tario.

“So many emo­tions, but the first thing is proud that I’ve been able to call these three in­di­vid­u­als team­mates and friends,” said Cana­dian cap­tain Chris­tine Sin­clair. “We’ve lit­er­ally taken on the world to­gether and shared heart­breaks and had our dreams come true in Olympic Games. “It’s been quite the ride.” The 35-year-old Tan­credi, a pow­er­ful striker who scored 27 goals in 125 ap­pear­ances, started on the bench be­fore com­ing on as sub­sti­tute in the 76th minute with Canada cling­ing to a 3-2 lead.

A mem­ber of the na­tional team since 2004, Tan­credi scored twice in Canada’s fa­mous 2-1 vic­tory over Ger­many in Brazil, the coun­try’s first-ever win against the Euro­pean pow­er­house.

“It’s a bit over­whelm­ing,” said Tan­credi, who had tears in her eyes af­ter Satur­day’s game. “It was go­ing to be an emo­tional day.”

A stand­out de­fender through­out her ca­reer, Wilkin­son also started the game on the bench, but came on in the 57th minute to win her 181st cap. The 34-year-old made her de­but for Canada in 2003.

Nault, mean­while, started against Mex­ico for her 71st ap­pear­ance. The 34-year-old didn’t play in Rio, but was an in­te­gral part at the 2012 Olympics af­ter two de­fend­ers ahead of her on the depth chart were felled by in­juries.

“We talked to­day about some of the things those women have stood for, and those things can’t leave our team,” said Herd­man. “Some­one in that room has to be ready to take on that sort of re­spon­si­bil­ity or we won’t see a podium again. It doesn’t mat­ter how good the play­ers are, how tech­ni­cally gifted they are.

“If they don’t have that spirit, that heart, if they don’t have the val­ues and at­ti­tude that these women have, this team goes nowhere. This team has been built on their foun­da­tions.”

Ja­nine Beckie scored twice in the first half, while Deanne Rose had the other goal for Canada. Nancy An­to­nio and Kait­lyn John­son replied for the visi­tors.

Play­ers from the 2016 bronzemedal win­ning Cana­dian squad were hon­oured be­fore kick­off, while mem­bers of the 2012 team were given a rous­ing ova­tion at half­time.

Canada, ranked No. 4 in the world by FIFA, set a new women’s na­tional team record in 2016 with 15 wins in a cal­en­dar year.

A snow­storm blan­keted the Van­cou­ver area Fri­day and into Satur­day, but a crowd of 22,508 braved the in­clement weather.

Canada had 19 of the 21 play­ers from Rio at B.C. Place Sta­dium for the game — cen­tre back Kadeisha Buchanan and full­back-mid­fielder Ashley Lawrence weren’t re­leased by their French clubs — while seven other young­sters were sprin­kled into the squad of 26.

The game against No. 26 Mex­ico was also Canada’s first at the venue since crash­ing out as hosts of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in a dev­as­tat­ing quar­ter-fi­nal loss to Eng­land in front of more than 54,000 fans.

Herd­man led a train­ing camp in Cal­i­for­nia last month as he be­gins prepa­ra­tions for 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics. Of the seven play­ers not part of the Rio squad cur­rently in the setup, five are teenagers.

CP PHOTO

Canada’s Melissa Tan­credi vies for con­trol of the ball with Mex­ico’s Christina Murillo (5) dur­ing sec­ond half in­ter­na­tional friendly soccer ac­tion at B.C. Place, in Van­cou­ver on Satur­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.