Would it be overstating the case to declare that Canada's match tomorrow afternoon against France represents the most important encounter of any Canadian soccer team that will be played in 2011? I don't think so.
I think we can quite fairly put to bed any claims from other Canadian national teams, men's, junior, or otherwise might make to footballing importance. A Gold Cup final for the men would have been a big deal, but never came close to materializing. The u17 World Cup is recently ended, for Canada, but success there would still be a blip on the radar. Canada's best known pro teams have a big match on Saturday, but are known more for coaching turnover than success on the pitch in 2011.
The Women's World Cup, however, is getting the full treatment from CBC/Sportsnet and the team is getting the attention it fully deserves. Christine Sinclair, first of the wonder goal, and now a masked avenger, has become a cult hero on twitter and has even landed a fellow blogger of Canadian soccer a spot on The National. (Since I recorded a forgettable pod with those Canadian Guys back in December, can I claim one degree of separation with the true Greatest Canadian, Peter Mansbridge?)
If tomorrow's match with France was Just Another World Cup Match™ (if such a thing exists) perhaps I'd cool my jets (ahh, my Jets!) a little but the difference between a win and a loss tomorrow is likely the difference between a wide open run to the semis (or better!) and an inglorious first round exit.
Canada loves a winner, and I can easily see a growing national enthusiasm, fueled by Canada Day patriotism, for a team on a knockout round run. This is a match that Canada should win. A quick look at the Women's World Cup betting lines shows Canada as a slight underdog, but most informed observers on this side of the Atlantic would give the edge to Canada tomorrow. The line should swing heavily in Canada's favour of Christine Sinclair is declared fit to play.
I won't now get into the consequences if Canada fails to get the result tomorrow. It's a position we're in far too often as Canadian supporters and I don't know who is helped by anticipating this collective wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I know where I'll be tomorrow afternoon (actually the morning over here). Downing a pint or two and getting behind the ladies in Canada's biggest match of 2011. And I know where you should be too.