It’s been 180 minutes of relative ease for Canada’s women’s soccer team and they’re well on course for Friday’s semi-final game to determine whether or not they’ll advance to the 2016 Olympics.
These early round games in CONCACAF aren’t really true challenges to the Canadian team, rather just an opportunity to work up a sweat, pad the stats and hope that nobody gets injured.
There is still such a gulf in the teams in the CONCACAF region that Guyana was ecstatic when they only lost 5-0 last Thursday. They spent nearly the entire game sitting, every player behind the ball barely got into the Canadian half.
Trinidad, meanwhile, was a bit more of a challenge as they actually got a shot or two at goal but Canada overwhelmed them in the second half and won 6-0.
At this stage of the game, the opposition is focused more on defensive organization and trying to not get beaten too badly.
“I think the gaps have closed. I think looking at the results in 2012, I think the U.S. were beating teams 16 or 17-0,” said Canadian head coach John Herdman. “I just don’t think you see that anymore. There’s definitely more tactical orientation in these teams but you can’t compare what Trinidad have got compared to Canada. They do a hell of a job to get the team out and even compete.”
While the numbers in terms of goals are not as high as in the past, there is no comparing a team like Canada with ample resources and a team like Trinidad, that was openly appealing for donations to simply feed players in 2014 when they tried to qualify for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
It’s not Canada’s fault that they promote and support their women’s program and thousands of young girls play the game while most countries in the region simply don’t do any of that.
But time and again, these no-hoper teams put on brave faces and simply state the obvious that outside of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and maybe Costa Rica, there are teams in these competitions to make up the numbers, take their lumps and then go home where programs go back to being largely inactive.
“We have difficulties and we appreciate that,” said Trinidad head coach Richard Hood, after saying that his team only had 14 players when they started preparing for the tournament and only got the full squad together two days before the tournament.
“We try to do what we can within our limitations. It would be great to have the resources of a Canada or the United States. That would be superb to have a larger pool of players. We don’t have it so it is what it is and we try to do the best with what we have.”
The top teams in the region spend months together while the minnows, oftentimes from countries with men’s programs that are pretty well supported, get a few weeks to play before being thrown to the wolves.
With such little time to prepare, these teams will simply never be able to develop technical and tactical abilities to come close to a team like Canada. With the little time they spend together, it looks like they use it to sit back, absorb, and have the organization to try to keep big numbers from being put up.
A CONCACAF presidential election on the horizon, it would be nice to hear a clear vision on how they plan to encourage and support as well as a timeframe as to when that gap will be reduced and tighter games can follow.
The Gold Cup remains CONCACAF’s moneymaking property. If there’s any desire to develop the women’s tournament into a more viable property in terms of viewership as well as financially, they need a tournament where most of the games aren’t foregone conclusions and half the field isn’t there just to make up the numbers.