Participating in a World Cup on home soil is something soccer players can only dream of. The Canadian U-20 women’s squad has now lived that dream and are walking away from the tournament with not only unforgettable memories, but building blocks to move forward.
Although the team was defeated in the quarter-finals by Germany, they gave everyone a preview of what to expect next year at the Women’s World Cup. They also showed Canada there’s a new generation of players coming through the pipeline that can take the reigns of the program, while continuing the tradition of representing their country with heart and determination.
Captain Kinley McNicoll suited up for every minute of the tournament. She was reliable and led by example, thanks to her strong presence on the back line. The defender also played an important role in spurring the team’s come from behind victory against Finland during their second group stage match.
What has this whole experience been like?
There have been highs and lows over the past few weeks. The first game against Ghana was definitely a low, because we wanted to start off this tournament with a huge bang. We obviously didn’t do that the first game. Then the second game, we were down going into the half to Finland and then the comeback. At that point, we had a lot of belief and the crowd played a huge part in that. Then, even North Korea, playing one of the best women’s teams in the world, that was an incredible experience. I think all in all, this tournament has been life-changing for all of us. To get the opportunity to play in your country, the game you love, with teammates that love one another, we just can’t thank Canada enough for their support.
As a captain, you obviously have a very special role on this team. What can you say about the group and what they’ve meant to you?
For me personally, I’ve known a lot of the girls from growing up. I played with a lot of them, especially since the majority of this team is from Ontario and that’s where I’m from. It’s incredible growing up with these girls and and then going through an experience like this and playing along side each other. As captain, I’m just so proud of every single person on this team. We all worked so hard. We didn’t get the result, but we couldn’t be more proud.
What do you think the next year is going to bring for you and the squad?
I think we’ve got Canada talking soccer now. We definitely wanted to inspire a nation and really spark the younger generation to fall in love with soccer. We want them to follow their dreams and keep playing soccer. I think we’ve definitely raised awareness of the game and got the word out. I think next year, the momentum will shift from this tournament to that tournament. It’s going to be huge.
Striker Janine Beckie finishes the tournament as the team’s scoring leader. She netted two goals, including the winner against Korea DPR to send Canada into the quarter-finals. Her background is a fascinating one, which includes time living both north and south of the border. She was also part of the American youth program, before deciding to don the red and white kit.
How would you describe the last couple of weeks?
It’s heartbreaking that we have to go home with this loss. Even so, this team showed an incredible amount of heart. We showed the Canadian DNA in this tournament. If anyone watched the games, they can see that Canadian soccer has a bright future. There are so many girls on this team that are already on the senior team. That really made a huge impact on this team.
What’s next for you?
I’ll head back to school for my college season. Then I’ll see what happens. I’m hoping that my future is bright with Canada Soccer. I’m excited to see what I’ll be doing.
You’re happy to be on this side of the border, playing ball here?
Oh yeah, definitely. The American side was great to me and I have nothing bad to say. They have a great association down there too. I just felt like this was a better fit for me. It was incredible to play in this tournament with this team. We’re just so connected. It was great to feel that side of my citizenship. I’m a proud Canadian and I’m a proud American. I’m really happy to be here and I look forward to staying.
You had a very good tournament. What can you take forward from your goal scoring prowess here in Canada?
I learned a lot more than I could have ever imagined. Andrew is a great coach. We also had John Herdman in with us, who is incredible too. He has so much experience. Just playing at this level makes you such a better player. It doesn’t matter if you’re just in training or if you’re on the field, it makes you elevate your game so much more. I’m definitely going to take that away with me.
About the author:
Sandra Prusina is a journalist and broadcaster based out of Calgary, Canada. She has covered women’s soccer since 2010. She is also a segment reporter for Olympic Broadcast Services, traveling to Vancouver, London and Sochi to work for the host broadcaster.