It was a tale of two halves in Hamilton for Canada’s Women’s National Team on Wednesday night in the team’s semi-final match against Colombia at the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games. After a first 45-minute spent mostly defending the relentless attacks from the Colombians, who scored in the 29th minute, Canada bounced back in the second half to create a lot of chances. Nonetheless, the Reds couldn’t level the score and left the pitch with a 0:1 loss.
“We had some pretty good chances early, and obviously the whole second half we had them under the gun but just didn’t finish what we had and the Colombians did,” said midfielder Jessie Fleming of the match. “It’s a little bit discouraging at times [to play against more experienced and physical players] it’s nice to be tighter and go up in those types of situations but I think that games like this make us mentally stronger because we have to fight through that. I thought enough of us won that mental battle tonight.”
A sentiment echoed by Canada’s Head Coach Danny Worthington.
“Proud. Proud of the girls tonight. A young group of women who stepped out on the park, who played a Colombian team who beat France 2-nil [in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015],” said Worthington.
“It’s a journey for these players. We came in and in that first half they needed to get a look and feel of what Colombia was going to bring. We went into the dressing room at halftime and we changed a few things. And what you’ve seen is the young players come out at halftime, bounce and really live in their half. I can’t really remember too many times where Colombia lived in our half in the second half. That is the way we want to play. That second half is where we’ve come in for these young women to come and show the fans that that is how we play.”
And in the dying minutes of the match, that crowd was completely behind the Canadians, oohs and aahs resonating with each touch of the ball in the Colombian’s zone.
“It’s hard to be happy at this moment you know with the loss, but I’m proud of our performance,” offered veteran goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé after the match. “Especially that second half, the girls were resilient and kept pushing. It felt like that goal was coming, we were getting the chances and we were there, it’s just that ball won’t go in the net right now. But we’ve got a day and a half now to turn it around, refocus and get that bronze medal.”
Canada will indeed have one more shot at a 2015 Toronto Pan American Games medal when they play for bronze on Friday, 24 July(kickoff 20.30 ET / 17.30 PT). Canada will face Mexico who lost 4:2 to Brazil earlier on the day. Tickets for the match are available viaticketmaster.ca or toronto2015.org.
But more than a chance at some hardware, Canada’s Women’s National Team players embrace the process and the international experience it provides for their development.
“We’ve put in a lot of off-field work, and that’s the big thing here. You don’t get too many training sessions, it’s tight between games, so you’ve got to do a lot of work off the field,” said Labbé, who is the most experienced of the group and also brings with her perspective and systems from her time with the senior squad. “I’ve really tried to drive that and show these kids that a lot of the work that comes out on the field is a lot of the stuff that you do off the field, watching tape and learning about what it takes to beat these teams. I’m glad it’s showing on the field, these girls are working their butts off and it’s exciting to see the future.”
“There’s always work to be done, individually and as team. I think this tournament has just given us another idea of what the women’s game looks like,” concluded 17-year old Jessie Fleming.