VANCOUVER, BC – It was a historic time at BC Place, dubbed “Christine Sinclair Place” on Tuesday night, as 48 thousand cheering fans gave two Canadian legends of the game, Sophie Schmidt and Christine Sinclair, a proper farewell for their last dance with the national team. Their teammates did their part by sending them off with a win, defeating Australia 1-0 thanks to a first-half Quinn strike in a wonderful send-off to CanWNT legends, Sinclair and Schmidt, as well as former Canadian goalkeeper, Erin McLeod.

The End of an Era: CanWNT vs Australia Match Analysis

The Goodbye They Deserved

It could have easily been a different story on Tuesday given all the emotion, the build-up and the hype surrounding this final match of the year. But true to the spirit of Schmidt and Sinclair, the CanWNT didn’t let the lights and the glamour overwhelm them. Instead, they stuck true to their game and delivered a victory against a very strong Australia side. Australia’s Head Coach Tony Gustavsson named a much stronger lineup for Tuesday match after their 5-0 thrashing in Victoria last weekend. Barring the injured Sam Kerr, it was about as full-strength as you could imagine.

But the night belonged to the Canadian’s, honouring one of the most iconic trailblazers of the sport. The game started nervy for the home side, with Australia having a majority of the possession in the opening quarter hour. However, slowly, the CanWNT began to grow into the game. Nichelle Prince looked confident after her stellar display in Langford, and nearly opened the account half-way through the first half with a curling shot that just went a whisker wide of Australia’s far post. It was a cagey affair until the 40-minute, when a specially-crafted corner kick routine allowed the CanWNT to take the lead. Fleming’s cross was met by the woman of the hour Sinclair, whose headered pass went to the back post for Ashley Lawrence. Lawrence’s volleyed shot crashed off the crossbar but was tucked in by Quinn, who scored their first goal for the national team since 2018.

“We designed that to try to get her [Sinclair] the goal, but it set up the goal regardless” said CanWNT Head Coach Bev Priestman after the match. Fitting that while the whole team was trying to get Sinclair a send-off goal, instead Sinclair turns provider and sets up the goal instead.

A Proper Farewell

READ MORE: Sophie Schmidt: Retiring a CanWNT Midfielder Legend

But the true moment of magic was in the 58-minute, 12 minutes after the half to honour Canada’s number 12. Sinclair was substituted off for the final time in place for her longtime friend and fellow legend Sophie Schmidt. It was an electric minute as Sinclair hugged her teammates and walked off to deafening applause. A true touching moment was when Sinclair gave Schmidt the captain’s armband, so she could lead the team one last time as well.

“I designed it” admitted Priestman to media post-match, “I thought it was an iconic moment to have, to simply hand the captain’s armband to Sophie [for her final match].”

“I thought she [Schmidt] changed the game in many ways and lead in the middle of the midfield. So I thought that it was quite fit, and gives Sophie the send-off she deserves as well.”

When the final whistle blew, all eyes were on Sinclair as she went out to hug every single one of her teammates, and thanked them for giving them the win. Many fans stayed long after the whistle to continue to praise Sinclair for all her efforts over her illustrious career, and to that iconic number 12 jersey walked off the pitch one last time.

CanWNT Performances For The Future

While most of the focus was on the two legends and their swansong match, the performances from some of the CanWNT deserved some attention as well. Although she did not score, Nichelle Prince lead the line well against Australia. She was dynamic on the ball, and linked up well with her teammates. Her last two performances might well earn her a shot at that starting striker position for both the upcoming W Gold Cup, and even the Paris 2024 Olympics. Jessie Fleming, who many tout as the natural successor of Sinclair for the captain’s armband, was at the heart of everything in Canada’s build-up. She was consistently an option for her teammates, and kept the play going through her distribution. Defensively as well, she never stopped running, even in a last minute Australia attack, she ran all the way back to her goal line to block a dangerous cross.

READ MORE: Christine Sinclair And What She Meant for the CanWNT

Her partner in the midfield, Quinn, was also the perfect foil for Fleming, as they were constantly winning back possession and kick-starting attacks through their sheer grit and vision. It was just that they got a reward for their efforts with the winning goal, something that Sinclair thanked them for when she came off. “Sinc saying ‘thank you for scoring’ tonight, that one I will remember for a really long time” explained Quinn to media when asked what their favourite part of the night was.

Even the substitutes impressed on the night, like Adriana Leon. Leon came on for Quinn after the Sinclair substitute to strengthen the attack, and had an immediate impact to the team. Shelina Zadorsky and Sydney Collins shored up the defense, while Jordyn Hutiema had a decent little cameo at the end as well.

“I have to applaud all the players in getting the job done” praised Priestman in her post-match presser. “I think that was the one thing in my mind that we wanted, to get this win and send them on their way, and I thought we did that”.

Priestman will certainly need that if she is to put the demons of the 2023 World Cup to bed, if she is to defend Canada’s Gold Medal at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

 

Photo Credit: Canada Soccer EN Twitter Account and the Canada Soccer FR Twitter Account on December 5, 2023.

Akash Mahi, a dedicated enthusiast of the game, is a recognized expert in the domain of tennis balls. With a keen understanding of materials and aerodynamics, he has contributed to the evolution of tennis ball design, enhancing playability and performance. Mahi's expertise continues to impact both casual players and professionals alike.