The story of Canada WNT’s 2012 season.
Where to begin?
In a season that redefined the sport of women’s soccer in Canada, the Women’s National Team captured the hearts and minds of Canadian Olympic onlookers en-route to the country’s highest-ever finish at a major international tournament.
Yet if the team’s podium finish at London 2012 is set to endure as the defining moment of the year – it is not for lack of competition.
Canada’s 2012 season began with a resoundingly successful CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament on home turf at BC Place in Vancouver; peaked with a drama-filled campaign at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament; and was capped off by the team, and captain Christine Sinclair, winning almost every major Canadian sporting award going in December.
It was a year in which in the team helped to bring the Canada Soccer brand to the very epicentre of Canadian sporting culture.
The following year-end recap is our best attempt at summarizing how they did it.
CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Canada 2012
After winning the Pan Am Games in the autumn of 2011, the team entered the new year with the task of navigating a tricky road to London 2012 on home soil in Vancouver.
Canada dispatched a number of CONCACAF sides during the group stage of the tournament with a string of performances that galvanized Canadian support at BC Place leading up to the deciding match of the competition.
On 27 January, Big Red squared off against Mexico in a winner-takes-all match with one of only two CONCACAF spots at London 2012 on the line.
Sinclair scored twice, with Melissa Tancredi adding a marker, as Canada defeated Mexico 3:1 to book its place at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. A near sell-out crowd at BC Place cheered Canada on throughout the victory; and an emotional night was capped off by some memorable celebrations following the big win.
Highlights from an emotional night at BC Place
The stage was then set for a dramatic tournament final between Canada and USA in front of capacity crowd of 25,427 at BC Place.
Unfortunately for John Herdman’s Canadian side – they would come up well short on the day, losing 4:0 to their North Americans rivals.
(Of note at Canada 2012, Sinclair finished as the tournament’s leading goal scorer with a remarkable tally of nine goals in five games.)
Build-up to London 2012
Canada played eleven matches in the build-up to London 2012 – compiling a record of seven wins and four losses in the process.
Big Red made it all the way to the tournament final at the 2012 Cyprus Women’s Cup before losing 2:0 to France in the gold-medal match. Canada finished the competition with a record of three wins and one loss.
The Canadians then took part in a string of Women’s International Friendlies, highlighted by a home fixture against China in Moncton, NB on 30 May. Sinclair provided a late winner in the match to lead Canada to a 1:0 victory in front of crowd of 7,514 at Stade Moncton Stadium.
Sinclair strikes late against China
London 2012, Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
Canada opened competition at London 2012 with the toughest of fixtures – a date with FIFA World Cup winners Japan. The Japanese would prove to be too much on the day, defeating the Canadians 2:1 despite a 55th-minute goal from Tancredi.
The second match of the tournament proved more fruitful for Herdman’s side. Canada beat South Africa comfortably courtesy of two goals by Sinclair and one by Tancredi. Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc earned the clean sheet in the 3:0 victory.
Entering the third match of the Olympics – Canada knew that only a result against Sweden would be good enough to qualify for the quarter-finals.
The match did not start well for the Canadians.
Sweden struck out to a 2:0 lead within sixteen minutes, and Canada’s podium dream appeared to be slipping away until Tancredi struck back with a goal in the dying stages of the first half. It was then Tancredi who added the second to pull her side back to level terms in the 84th minute to earn Canada the all-important point that would see it through to the next round.
Riding a wave of confidence from the comeback against Sweden, Canada overcame a crowd of over 28,00 to sweep aside hosts Great Britain in the quarter-final with a convincing 2:0 win.
Jonelle Filigno gave Canada the one-nil lead with a delightful half-volley before Sinclair sealed the win with one of her trademark free-kick strikes.
Canada then came up against familiar foes USA in the tournament semi-final.
In a match dubbed the ‘best women’s soccer game ever’ by American network NBC – Sinclair turned in a performance for the ages scoring a hat-trick to push USA to the very brink.
Despite the Canadian captain’s heroics, Alex Morgan would score a 4:3 extra-time winner for the Americans in the 123rd minute to end Canada’s gold-medal hopes.
The late goal was a cruel, cruel blow for the Canadians – but there remained the right to battle for a coveted podium position in the bronze-medal against France.
A fatigued Canadian side endured a French onslaught for the majority of the match, but thanks to some tenacious defending and stand-out goalkeeping from Erin McLeod, kept things at 0:0 heading into added time.
Enter Diana Matheson.
Canada’s diminutive midfielder burst into the penalty area to put away a rebound chance in the 93rd minute to win the country its first-ever Olympic football medal. The third-place finish at London 2012 is also Canada’s best-ever finish at a major international tournament.
The team’s exciting campaign was cited by many as the marquee Canadian story of the London 2012 Olympics. The semi-final match against USA was the most-watched Canadian event of the games and the team received unprecedented levels of support across the country.
Canadian fans welcome #canWNT home in Vancouver
(Of note at London 2012, Sinclair finished the tournament as the leading goal scorer with six goals.)
After the remarkable run at London 2012, a number of high-profile Canadian sporting awards were bestowed on both the team and captain Sinclair.
The Canadian women were dubbed ‘Team of the Year’ by major outlets including: the Canadian Press, QMI Agency and CBC.
Sinclair received a number of notable personal honours including: the Lou Marsh Award (nation-wide media), the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award (the Canadian Press), CBC Athlete of the Year, QMI Agency Athlete of the Year, and Air Canada Athlete of the Year.
A recap of Sinclair’s 2012 season
Year in review: key notes
– Canada tied its record for season wins, posting a record of 14W-1D-7L in 22 matches
– Christine Sinclair set a national record of 23 goals
– Christine Sinclair & Desiree Scott led team with 5 Player of the Match honours each
– John Herdman set a national record for wins in a year by a coach (14)
– Sophie Schmidt led the team with 7 assists (followed by Sinclair / Rhian Wilkinson with 6 assists each)
Canada Soccer outlines return to soccer guidelines. The return to soccer guidelines provide member organizations with a five-step process, including a checklist of weighted questions known as the Return to Soccer Assessment Tool.