Following the fairytale story of Canada's Women's Olympic team winning bronze at London 2012, the next wave of female Canadian players took to the international stage at the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup in Japan.
After opening the tournament with a comprehensive 6-0 victory over Argentina, Canada lost consecutive 2-1 games to Norway and North Korea, sending the Canadians home from the tournament after finishing third in their group.
While most supporters are prone to knee jerk reactions following tournaments - carried away with success or despondent over unfulfilled expectations - it is important to take an objective look at both the positives and the negatives.
Gone are the days of 'hit and hope' football. There was a time when Canada's approach in the women's game was very much about playing the percentages. Get the ball forward as quickly as possible, force the opponent to make an error in their own half of the field, and then use our superior athletic ability and physicality to score goals. It wasn't pretty, but during the time when the women's game was in its infancy, it was reasonably effective.
The women's game has evolved considerably in recent years, and we have had to evolve with it. Technical proficiency and tactical awareness are now the standards for the world's best, and while we are still a long way behind some countries, at least we are trying to play the game the right way.
Canada's players, by and large, are better technically than their counterparts were a decade ago. Many of the players who finished runners-up to the United States at the 2002 FIFA Women's U19 World Cup, went on to win a bronze medal at the Olympics just a few weeks ago. If we can stay on track, focusing on developing the technical proficiency of our players along with their tactical understanding of the game, our never-say-die Canadian spirit will take us far in the women's game.
There were some decent individual performances from this group of players, and a number of them look capable of making the step up to the full team - if not now, then certainly in a few years' time. Sabrina D'Angelo in goal, and Rachel Melhado and Shelina Zadorsky at the back, all performed admirably. Although both Melhado and Zadorsky were guilty of defensive errors that resulted in goals, they both showed they have the potential to move up to the senior team.
Danica Wu, Adriana Leon and Jenna Richardson showed that they, too, have the potential to progress to the senior level. Their movement, athleticism and technical ability is very good, and will stand them in good stead as they look to advance to the next level. The key word, though, is potential. What those players do now, and how they develop in the years ahead, will dictate whether or not they will successfully make that step up.
Whenever a Canadian team is eliminated from a tournament, critics tend to limit their analysis to the micro level. Did Player A perform the role that was expected of her? Did Player B make a mistake that led to a goal that eliminated the team? Did the coach make the right player selections, set up the team correctly, and utilize the correct tactical approach?
While this type of analysis is important and essential in the short-term, it isn't going to help Canada improve its long-term fortunes at the international level. In order to do that, we need analysis at the macro level.
Why do we continue to produce such a shallow pool of talent? Do our players who reach the international level do so because of our system of player development, or in spite of it? If our system of player development is not working (for the record, it isn't), how do we fix it so that we can be more competitive at the international level?
These are big-picture questions that require in-depth analysis. In future blogs, I will be covering each of these topics separately, so that we can openly discuss the changes that need to be made for the betterment of Canadian soccer.