2019 was a bit of a letdown for the Canadian women’s team.
Canada began the year on a tear, going unbeaten through its first eight games (with five wins) while only conceding one goal.
The good times continued to roll for the Reds at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, with Kenneth Heiner-Møller’s side posting back-to-back clean sheet victories to open the group stage of the competition.
But then the wheels fell off, as a loss to the Netherlands allowed the Dutch to win Group E ahead of the Canadians, who then meekly bowed out of the competition in the second round following a loss to Sweden.
Still, there were some highlights for the Reds this past year.
Here’s a look at the top three moments of 2019 from the Canadian women’s team.
RELATED READING: Year in Review: Top 3 CanMNT moments of 2019
1) Sinclair scores in 5th consecutive Women’s World Cup
After breezing through its first two games at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, Canada came crashing down to earth when it suffered its first setback and conceded goals for the first time in the tournament, losing 2-1 to the Netherlands in its group stage finale. The Canadian loss featured an important individual milestone, though.
The Dutch opened the scoring with a goal early in the second half, but Canada didn’t lie down, and fought back by levelling just six minutes later. Following some nice ball movement on the edge of the Netherlands’ 18-yard box, Ashley Lawrence fed a brilliant cross to the far post, and captain Christine Sinclair slid to beat a Dutch defender to the ball and poke it past Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.
It was Sinclair’s seventh career goal against the Netherlands in international play, but the Canadian captain also made a bit of history as she became only the second player to score in five consecutive Women’s World Cups, joining Brazil’s Marta.
Still, the Canadian captain was in a somber mood after the game.
“They were able to do things against us that we haven’t let happen, not just in this tournament but in this year,” Sinclair explained in dissecting Canada’s loss. “They were able to play through us at times. Sometimes we got a little stretched, and we pride ourselves on being tight and compact.”
2) Road win over England in pre-World Cup tune-up
A visit to Manchester in April for a rare road game against England proved to be an eventful affair for the Canadians.
In one of its final friendlies before the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, Canada found itself involved in a dogfight in the first meeting between the sides since the Reds lost to the English in Vancouver in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup.
The match appeared to be headed to a stalemate, with neither team able to find their way through and produce a goal. But then in the 81st minute, Canada’s Ashley Lawrence delivered a cross into the penalty box. England’s clearing attempt went straight up in the air before landing at the feet of Nichelle Prince, whose volley attempt smacked the crossbar.
England wasn’t out of the woods, though, as Christine Sinclair expertly controlled the rebound with her thigh before knocking it in from close range with her right foot.
It was Sinclair’s third goal of 2019 for Canada, and the 180th of her international career.
“It was just a battle, two of the top teams in the world going head to head,” Sinclair said after the game. “I think it was a matter of inches. They made a couple of great saves, our ‘keeper made a couple of great saves. And we were fortunate to get one.”
3) Brushing aside Mexico in Toronto
Christine Sinclair netted her 181st international goal to guide Canada to a 3-0 win over Mexico in a pre-World Cup friendly in Toronto back in May.
But it was Sinclair’s playmaking ability – an often overlooked element of her game – that stood out on this afternoon, as the captain capped off a sensational, sweeping move from Canada by setting up teammate Jessie Fleming to open the scoring.
After dominating the early proceedings, Canada found the breakthrough midway through the first half on a well-worked play started by defender Allysha Chapman. Janine Beckie delivered a fabulous through ball that released Sinclair into the Mexicans’ box, and the Canadian captain adroitly cut it back for Fleming to slot past goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago. It was Fleming’s eighth goal in 65 appearances for Canada.
Sinclair was full of praise for her teammates after the win.
“My time on the national team has been a roller-coaster, a journey, ups and downs. I can honestly say I’ve been waiting my entire career for this team, in that they’re so talented [and] have the depth to be able to compete at World Cups and Olympics. That excites me. We’re just so much more talented than we have ever been,” stated Sinclair, who debuted for the senior team as a teenager in 2000.