Monday, June 02, 2008

Keeping it in perspective

It was a friendly. In the end, Canada's strong performance against Brazil Saturday night doesn't really mean much. The Brazilians were likely guilty of taking Canada for granted and Canada certainaly had more to gain from the result (and, well, Canada still lost).

But, still, there was a lot to like about the game--especially the way Canada played it. If this game were played in 1998, you would have seen 11 Canucks bunkering behind the ball trying to absorb the pressure. Winning would have been an absurd afterthought. Canada would be playing for the 0-0 draw. And, they may have got it. Canadian teams of that era were disciplined and were able to bravely defend for long stretches. Keeper Craig Forrest was Canada's best player and he could always be counted on for a couple big saves. The game would have been ugly, but the result would have likely been respectable.

It was different Saturday. Canada attacked. It held the ball in the middle of the pitch for long stretches and it created scoring opportunities. In the end, a defensive miscue and some poor finishing were what gave the South Americans the win. A Canadian fan could be justified in thinking that it was an unlucky result for the team in red.

As stated, it's important to keep it in perspective, but there was no shame in losing 3-2 to Brazil.

And, just when it looked like the weekend couldn't get any better for Canadian soccer it was learned that the women's head coach,
Even Pellerud, was stepping down after the Olympics. Although Pellerud has taken Canada to three straight World Cups and (finally) to the Olympics this year there has been a feeling in soccer circles that he's been holding the women back in recent years. Like the men's teams of the late 90s, Pellerud plays a negative style of soccer designed to take advantage of the physical advantage that North America women typically have when playing women from other parts of the world. There was a time when such a style worked--about the late 90s. However, in playing an ugly boot and chase style, the Canadians have been stagnating. The CONCACAF opposition is getting closer, and the US and Europe are vaulting past Canada in the skilled areas of the game.

Pellerud was a stabilizing force in the women's game when he came on board a decade ago. He deserves credit for righting the ship and taking the team to a top 10 world ranking. If the CSA makes the right hire (never a likely thing), the women have a chance to take the next step in their development.

In the meantime, however, Canadian fans will be forced to watch some God awful soccer in China--likely for three more games (and three only).

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