hree of CONCACAF’s star players laced up their boots for the last time on Saturday, when Marie-Eve Nault (71 caps and 0 goals), Melissa Tancredi (125 caps and 27goals) and Rhian Wilkinson (181 caps and 7 goals), played their final game for Canada in a 3-2 win over visiting Mexico in a women’s international friendly.
To play at home for one last time, is very, very special,” said Wilkinson, a 34-year-old defender, who has played in four consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cups through 2015. “It’s been a difficult week, but we’ve kept our emotions in check. We know how big a day this is for the three of us: a big day for Marie-Eve, Melissa and I, but it is also a special day for our families. They have put us first for a long time and it is important that they are recognized for the contributions they have made to our careers.”
All three women have won CONCACAF’s Women’s Championship (2010), played in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and earned
A member of the national team since 2004, Melissa Tancredi scored twice in Canada’s famous 2-1 victory over Germany at the 2016 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament – Canada’s first-ever win against the European powerhouse.
“For me, it is so important to end my international career at home,” said the 35-year-old forward. “To be able to give this crowd a win at BC Place in front of our family and friends is really special, and to end it on the pitch with Sincy (Christine Sinclair) is amazing as well.”
The 34-year-old Marie-Eve Nault became an integral part at the 2012 Olympic team after two defenders ahead of her on the depth chart suffered injuries. “There was a whirlwind of emotion,” she expressed. “I didn’t expect to play 90 (minutes), but I ended up playing 90, and I wanted to do it for the team, surrounded by the best teammates in the world.
Together on the pitch at London 2012, they combined for one Canada’s most important goals in the group phase against Sweden, with Wilkinson making a scintillating run down the right before her cross was headed home by Tancredi. The sequence moved through six Canadian players, with Nault providing the initial pass.
The three retiring players were joined on the pitch by their families at the conclusion of the match and were given an emotional send-off as head coach John Herdman led the crowd in a rousing hip-hip-hurray.
he B.C. Place Stadium friendly game was billed as a tribute to the Olympic bronze-medal team, and the Canada coach and he was choked up as he led a post-match tribute to the retiring players.
But while celebrating the past, Herdman also has an eye open to the future. With his squad having worked just one camp together since Rio Olympics and limited recent playing time, he was not surprised Saturday’s performance was spotty and that there were giveaways galore. But Deanne Rose scored on a beautiful individual effort in the 14th minute before Janine Beckie showed her shooting accuracy in a penalty shot at the 26th minute.
The front five of Beckie, Rose, Sinclair and teenage midfielders Jessie Fleming (18) and debutante Sarah Stratigakis (17) ebbed and flowed like an attacking wave at times, complete with delicate one-touch passing. “Perhaps, said Herdman, “There is another level of football that maybe we haven’t yet seen,” Perhaps it is evidence of the growth of a Canadian team now ranked fourth in the world. “In the past, it used to be stop Sinclair and you’ll stop Canada,” Herdman added. No longer.
“We’re starting to really develop an offence that can cause problems for opposing teams. But with that, we’ve got to maintain that Canadian DNA linked to a strong defence.”
Injuries and absences did not help the Canadian cause against Mexico, especially at centre-back. Nault, who has already started her post playing career as a co-ordinator at a regional Quebec training centre, was originally slated to watch from the sidelines.
Nault, who didn’t get word from Herdman that she was playing until two weeks ago, ended up captaining the team and playing the full game.
The match against Mexico started the new quadrennial with a pre-match camp in Los Angeles. Players ranged from 15-year-old Jordyn Huitema to 33-year-old captain Christine Sinclair.The camp roster featured seven teenagers and 17 players aged 24 or younger. Sinclair (33), Diana Matheson (32), Stephanie Labbé (30), Desiree Scott (29) and Allysha Chapman (27) are the only players over 25.”This is a great way to start assessing the newcomers.”” Herdman said in an interview. For Herdman and his staff this is all part of a carefully crafted blueprint for the 2019 World Cup in France and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.