Oh, Canada!

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FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Qualifier Canada v Dominica – 16 June 2016, Toronto, ON, Canada – canadasoccer / by Paul Giamou

What a week it was for Canadian soccer, as the Women’s national team topped Group A in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, while the Men’s national team brushed aside Dominica in World Cup qualifying. For supporters of Canadian soccer, this week was a chance to see just how far both teams have come, and dream and hope of successes once again.

There are no pretences about these results, though; neither come with a trophy, that’s for certain. They are, by the nature of their circumstances, only another step forward. Canada’s women advanced out of the group stages of the World Cup and topped the group, a first for the national team at this level. But, with a 1-1 draw against Holland, Canada didn’t do themselves any favours, either.

True, the Canadian women finally managed to find the back of the net, courtesy of midfielders Ashley Lawrence. But, the team continues to lack offensive bite and conceded yet another soft goal. Christine Sinclair has yet to discover the blistering form that made her the world’s best back during the 2012 Olympics, and while Canada’s midfield shape has looked decent enough, there is still a distinct lack of creativity down the spine of the team.

Still, all that matters in a World Cup is the results, which the Germans and the Japanese will be quite pleased with: Germany finished top of Group B with seven points, while Japan took all nine against Cameroon, Switzerland and Ecuador in Group C. The U.S. also topped its group with seven points.

Brazil will look to wrap things up for themselves in Group E with a formality match, as a win, draw or loss will see them through as top of the group anyway; in Group F, there’s a real battle, though, as Colombia, England and France duke it out for spots one and two; nothing is decided in this group yet so there is sure to be an upset or two as the final group matches are played in the coming days.

For Canada, a Round of 16 match up could see them potentially taking on one of Switzerland or Sweden, or the third place finisher in Group E, which could be any of Spain, Costa Rica or Korea Republic. Any of those opponents would provide Canada with a decent test but none of them are particularly threatening to an in-form Canada side, either. Finding that form will be key for the Canadian women as the FIFA Women’s World Cup churns along.

For Canada’s men, a blunt offensive line isn’t a problem, though, as both Tesho Akindele and Cyle Larin have looked sharp and dangerous up top for Les Rouges. Larin, in particular, has been in impressive form, scoring in each of his last three games for the national team. The Orlando City SC striker, drafted first overall in the MLS SuperDraft this year, has also scored regularly for his club, and will very much be the main man for Canada up top for the Gold Cup coming up, too.

Akindele has given Canada a lot of quality and competency up top as well. Jonathan Osorio and Russell Teibert look comfortable in possession and, more importantly, are beginning to open up and be more and more assertive on the playing field. Julian de Guzman has been very solid defensively as well. So, for Benito Floro, the challenge here is to find the right mix of players and have them grow together, forming chemistry amongst one another. If he can manage to strike the right balance, this Canadian team looks as strong as any in years’ past.

A 4-0 win over Dominica is a convincing result but it’s not a World Cup berth just yet, and Canada has yet to take on CONCACAF’s bigger players, like Costa Rica, the U.S., Mexico or Honduras. But, Canada hasn’t looked quite this comfortable playing in games they should win, so a positive pair of results against Dominica turns out to be a refreshing change of pace. There are a few defensive errors Canada needs to fix, but those will come with comfort and familiarity, too.

Whether this Canadian team can replicate the Gold Cup winning feat of their predecessors in 2000 remains to be seen, but the team looks good enough and is playing with confidence, which is always a positive!

So, as Canada’s men and women set themselves up for future glory and even tougher challenges, these two teams will now be tested even further; World Cup qualifying will only get more difficult from here on out for Canada’s men, and the opposition in the World Cup is whittling down until only the best teams remain for Canada’s women to face. Whether Sinclair and company can take on and defeat the U.S. or Germany is a question for another day, though that day is fast approaching, too.

For now, though, supporters of soccer in Canada can enjoy this moment of positivity, a rare sight across the board; Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact are thriving, the two national teams are posting positive results and players like Akindele and Larin are flourishing down in the U.S. as well.

It’s been a good week for Canadian soccer!

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