Once again, Canada’s women’s soccer team has made a bit of history at the Olympics.
At London 2012, the team won a bronze medal, Canada’s first Olympic medal in a traditional team sport since Berlin 1936. And on Tuesday, at the Games in Brazil, Canada beat Germany for the first time ever, to clinch first place in their Olympic group, another first-time feat.
“It’s a great day,” said head coach John Herdman. “We’ve had a couple of great days here… but that just topped it today.”
While Christine Sinclair is typically the one to serve as team captain, she was rested for this game (Canada’s third game in seven days), ahead of a difficult quarterfinal matchup against France on Friday.
But in her absence, fellow long-time Canadian forward Melissa Tancredi stepped up, playing the role of captain and scoring both goals in the team’s 2-1 win.
“I think we came out to make a statement,” said Tancredi. “We came out to show everyone that we’re here to win games; we’re not going to be pushed over by anyone.”
Herdman said the 34-year-old from Hamilton, Ontario fully embraced her role as captain, even giving the team a motivational speech before the game.
“When Melissa speaks, people listen,” said Herdman.
But there’s no captaincy controversy brewing here. Herdman said Sinclair, who is the second-leading all-time scorer in international soccer with 164 goals, was totally supportive of her long-time teammate leading the charge on this day.
“(Sinclair) was the first one on the bench congratulating (Tancredi), just loving every minute of it.”
Tancredi was also a big part of Canada’s run to the bronze medal in London, scoring four goals in that tournament. The team’s performance in London was lauded as one of the most inspirational stories of those Games, and Tancredi said she still cherishes having the ability to lift the spirits of young fans.
“Our job is to empower anyone, females, males, at any level,” she said. “That’s our job as footballers and as professional athletes, to be role models. We want to push people to be their best.”
The Canadian team will need to be at their best once again on Friday, when they face another one of the top-ranked teams in the world in a must-win game.