Canadian women’s coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller wants his team to wipe the slate clean and go into the Four Nations Tournament with a new frame of mind.
In October, Canada suffered a 4-0 loss to Japan in a friendly, marking the team’s largest defeat since falling to the United States by a similar score line during the 2012 Olympic qualification tournament.
“If you want to take something positive out of a 4-0 defeat, it’s the impact it does have on people,” Heiner-Møller recently offered. “We had a meeting after the loss against Japan, where we had a very hard conversation from me to them, between players as well, and what it means to pull that jersey over your head.
“I don’t want to give an excuse coming out of a tournament, but I know the work this group put in being at the World Cup and how disappointed we were to actually leave it with what we thought was too early and the emotion of having that loss. The lack of excitement we had coming back in together, that was my biggest concern and the lack of commitment to what we as a team are doing.”
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And that focus on commitment is what he wants to see in the final games of 2019, which includes matches versus Brazil on Nov. 7 and a later meeting against New Zealand or host China at the Four Nations Tournament.
“I think we can use that (as motivation) going forward,” he said looking back on October’s loss in Japan. “If we miss that, we’re down to the 11 individual players on the pitch and the nine or however many are sitting on the bench and just being individuals.
“That’s not what Canada is about. Canada is about a team of very good individuals, but the team is more important than anything.”
If you look at Canada’s results this year, it’s been a mixed bag. Leading up to this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, the team was riding a positive wave of an eight-game undefeated streak with victories over a top-five ranked side from England and an always formidable squad from Norway. That all came to a screeching halt in France with a 2-1 group stage loss to the Netherlands and being bounced from the tournament in the Round of 16 by Sweden.
“If we don’t bring that commitment to be tactically very, very aware and solid, then we do have small gaps that can lead into potential opposition taking advantage of that,” Heiner-Møller explained.
The Canadians now have an ideal opportunity to close out this year on a high note against teams they’ve defeated. Their last meeting with Brazil was a 1-0 victory in Ottawa last year, they blanked New Zealand 2-0 at the World Cup, and beat China 1-0 in a friendly during the summer of 2016.
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For those wondering, Canada will not have any games ahead of the 2020 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which is scheduled for early next year – and that factors into why stalwart midfielders Jessie Fleming and Desiree Scott were not selected for the Four Nations Tournament.
“We have several players we need to look at in their position to make up the roster for the Olympic qualifying, which will be 20 [players],” Heiner-Møller said. “That includes three goalkeepers, 17 outfield players. We only have these two matches in China. I don’t think it would make any sense to bring them in because they’ll play limited minutes, and I know exactly what Desiree Scott and Jessie Fleming are capable of doing.
“[And instead] to look at those midfielders who actually need to show that they’re ready for those qualifiers and if I can give them that option in China, that’s for the best of the team.”