Concacaf W Championship: Canada's next generation ready to write their own history

At 37, Christine Sinclair could soon call time on her playing career. But for Canada, there is a new generation of players ready to take over and lead them into a winning era. 

By Courtney Hill
Picture by NAOMI BAKER/GETTY IMAGES

For many years now, Christine Sinclair has been at the helm of the Canadian women’s football team.

The all-time leading goal-scorer - and most-capped player with 310 appearances - has been the heart and soul of their team.

Joined by the likes of Sophie Schmidt (213 caps) and Desiree Scott (177 caps), they have defined an era of women’s football in Canada.

But the thing about eras is that they eventually come to an end.

And at 39 years old, Sinclair could soon call time on her playing career after the World Cup in 2023, and the Paris Olympics in 2024.

While there may never be another Christine Sinclair, there is a host of talent in the Canadian squad ready to write their own history.

Captain Sinclair: Canada's all-time leading goal-scorer
Picture by NAOMI BAKER/GETTY IMAGES

Tokyo 2020: Has the tide turned in Canada’s favour?

The USA v Canada is a football rivalry that stretches back decades. 

Twice the Canadians have suffered their heaviest defeat – 9-1 – to their foes, once in 1995 and again in 2000. 

And while it is largely labelled a fierce rival, for the longest time it has been Canada who have lived in the shadow of their American neighbours. 

They have stood idly by as the USWNT collected Olympic golds and World Cup titles without being able to really challenge. 

But then came Tokyo, and the re-scheduled 2020 Olympic Games held in 2021.

Canada's golden moment in Tokyo
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Just the one win and two draws left them second in their group, poised to face Brazil in the quarter-finals.

The tie was settled on penalties, with four of five players scoring theirs to progress.

Then came the semi-finals, and Canada’s biggest test yet – physically and mentally.

In order to play for a guaranteed medal, and a chance at gold, they had to overcome one of their biggest achilles heels: the USA.

Whether it be a matter of luck, given the Americans were far off their game, are a signalling of a turn in the tide, Canada came out on top against the odds.

Jessie Fleming scored the decisive penalty to win, after being handed the ball by captain Sinclair in a clear sign of the times.

Fleming would go on to score yet another penalty in the final against Sweden and took the game to penalties.

After three successive misses from the Swedes, Julia Grosso slotted home the winning penalty to ensure it was a golden flight back to Canada.

Only time will tell if that empathic win is signifying a new dawn for Canadian football, and their first big test post-Tokyo is at the Concacaf W Championship.

Winning will secure the place at Paris 2024, giving them a prime opportunity to defend their title as reigning champions.

Jessie Fleming at the helm of Canada’s new generation

Much like Sinclair has with the current crop of talent, Fleming is likely to spearhead the next.

The 24-year-old is still on an upward trajectory in her career but has been around the national team since 2013, making her senior debut at just 15-years-old.

She is joined by Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence who have also achieved over 100 caps for the national team, and are still in their prime.

With multiple players over 50 caps too, it presents a much-needed blend of experience and youth at the core of Bev Priestman’s vision for her team.

So, who are Canada’s young guns hoping to welcome in a new (winning) era?

Here are two key players who have their sights set on glory with their national team.

Julia Grosso

21-year-old Julia Grosso has already written her name in the history books for Canada, even with less than 50 caps to her name.

Scoring the winning penalty in the gold medal match at Tokyo 2020 has endeared her to teammates and fans alike.

Grosso provided the heroics in Tokyo
Picture by All rights reserved 2021 GETTY IMAGES

And to take on that pressure at such a young age, with the world watching on, and remaining unfazed was particularly impressive from the then 20-year-old.

Grosso went on to sign her first professional contract with Italian champions Juventus in the wake of Tokyo, and she is ready to keep collecting career highs.

“It [winning gold] is definitely a great accomplishment but I do think there’s a lot of things ahead of me that I’m looking forward to and I still have to accomplish in my career,” she said.

After helping Juventus retain their title, her attention now turns to the Concacaf championship to help Canada book their place at the World Cup and for Paris 2024.

Jordyn Huitema

Huitema is one of the more experienced youngsters for Canada.

With already 50 caps to her name, the 21-year-old has grown familiar with the pressures of delivering for her country.

Huitema won the golden boot at the 2020 Concacaf Championships
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

She also has the experience of doing it at club level, having previously spent three seasons with French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Her headed goal in a 3-0 victory over Dijon in 2021 helped the Parisians win their first-ever league title.

And, luckily for Canada, she’s already familiarised herself with the Concacaf stage.

In 2020, she scored seven goals in Concacaf qualifying to help her team qualify for Tokyo and finished as the tournament’s top-scorer.

Huitema became the youngest ever golden boot winner of the competition.

So when it comes to pressure on the big stage, Canada’s young guns know how to handle it.

Bev Priestman: Spearheaded Canada's golden Olympic campaign
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Prior to the Concacaf squad announcement, a shift in the squad had already begun with plenty of new faces receiving call-ups.

Even though many of those players won't be participating in the upcoming Olympic qualifiers, it shows that Canada is in good hands going forward.

And with Priestman leading the way, a major honour under their belts, now may finally be the time for Canada to step out of the shadow of their rivals.

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