October 14, 2016 - 12:44 PM
VANCOUVER - They have won back-to-back Olympic bronze medals but the Canadian women's soccer team wants to raise the bar of success.
The team's goal over the next four years is to win both a FIFA Women's World Cup and an Olympic gold medal, plus be ranked No. 1 in the world.
Head coach John Herdman agrees it's a lofty goal, but the natural progression for the team.
"That's what you have to push for with this group now," Herdman said at a news conference Friday. "What else is there left to do?
"We've been at the podium twice. There is only so far you can get with a bronze medal. I think this group, the young and the senior players, are asking for more now. It's when they ask for more, you really have a foundation to build on."
The Canadian women defeated Brazil 2-1 to win the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics. That came on the heels of the bronze medal Canada four years earlier at the London Games.
Canada finished sixth at the 2015 Women's World Cup.
The Canadian women went into the Olympics ranked No. 10 in the world by FIFA. Their performance in Rio moved them up to No. 4, the team's highest ranking ever.
"It's been a hell of a four years," said Herdman, a native of Consett, England, who was hired as Canada's national coach in September of 2011. "The team has consistently moved forward.
"I think it's time to push from four to one. We are a country that has a depth of talent."
National team captain Christine Sinclair, who scored one of the goals in the win over Brazil, remembers teammate Desiree Scott's reaction in the dressing room after the game.
"She turned to me and said 'I'm so mad. I know it could have been a different colour,'" said Sinclair. "That's the attitude the team has, that's the attitude I think the younger players have.
"We want our full national team to be the best in the world and that's what we are aiming for."
Herdman agreed the bronze in Rio didn't shine as bright as the London medal.
"I know this bronze felt a little bit different than the first one," he said. "It doesn't feel the same."
To reach its goal, the women's team will need increased support, both financially and in the recruitment of talent.
"We need to invest more significantly to ensure our pipeline that's coming through is keeping up with the rest of the world," he said. "Canada has a talent pool, if you drill down deep enough you can find those players consistently. But our program has to drill down and that takes a financial resource."
Herdman would like to see a centre based in Toronto that consistently develops players. He also believes that having at least one, if not two, professional women's teams in Canada by 2020 is critical to reduce the flow of players attending NCAA schools in the United States.
"That NCAA pathway becomes a black hole for development for players," he said.
Money to fund these programs could come from the federal government, the provinces, corporations or even private donors.
"There are benefactors out there, there are certain groups that put energy into projects," Herdman said. "To go from four to one is a big task. We are going to need that bit of support."
As part of the celebration of the Rio bronze, the national team will play Mexico on Feb. 4 at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.
Sinclair, a native of Burnaby, B.C., is looking forward to playing in front of friends and family.
"I just want to put on a show and let the thousands of fans enjoy this match," she said. "It's going to be incredible."
Peter Montopoli, Canada Soccer's general secretary, said games are planned at other cities across the country.
"We do plan to take the team across the country," he said.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016