Christine Sinclair was heart of magical 2016 campaign
Posted on 26 December 2016 in Women's National Team / Olympic Team
Canada Soccer reached new heights in women's international football in 2016, winning their second consecutive bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Women's Olympic Football Tournament. Canada were the only nation to return to the podium from four years ago as they posted five wins in six matches in Brazil - including victories over confederation champions Australia, Germany, and Brazil.
Canada's 2016 record, which featured an Association-best 15 wins, propelled Canada to fourth in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking. Along the way, Canada won a silver medal at the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, a trophy at the Algarve Women's Cup, and then the bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. In doing so, Canada Soccer's Women's National Team became the first Canadian team to win back-to-back medals at the Summer Olympic Games since lacrosse in 1904 and 1908.
At the heart of Canada's 2016 performance was superstar Christine Sinclair, the team's captain for the past decade and now a 13-time winner of the Canadian Players of the Year award. When her teammates needed her most, she was their leader that tipped the scales in Canada's favour.
From two of the biggest moments of the year, Canada Soccer's Women's National Team Head Coach John Herdman said, "I will always remember that goal against Costa Rica to ensure our Olympic qualification and her composed finish against Brazil that sealed the bronze medal for Canada."
Bronze Medal Celebration Match
After a tremendous 2016 season, Canada will open their 2017 campaign on 4 February against CONCACAF rivals Mexico. The Canadian Bronze Medal Celebration Match will be played at BC Place in Vancouver.
"There’s no place like it to play," said Sinclair, who grew up in nearby Burnaby, British Columbia. "We haven’t played a home game at BC Place since the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015, so it’ll be exciting to be able to enjoy and celebrate our bronze medal with the fans in my hometown."
While she has always been Canada's biggest star, she is today surrounded by the program's most impressive cast of emerging young talents. Twenty-one year old Kadeisha Buchanan was Canada Soccer's Player of the Year in 2015 and the Best Young Player at the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015. Ashley Lawrence, equally young, was runner up to Sinclair in voting for the 2016 award. She was twice Canada's player of the match at Rio 2016 Olympic Games, including the decisive 2:1 win over Brazil for the bronze medal in front of 39,718 Brazilian fans at Corinthian Arena in São Paulo.
Janine Beckie, 22, was Canada's leading goalscorer in 2016 with nine goals and she was a nominee for the year-end CONCACAF Awards (alongside Sinclair). Jessie Fleming, 18, was the only Canadian to start all six matches at Rio 2016 and won Canadian U-20 Player of the Year honours for the second time. Deanne Rose, 17, was the Olympic Games youngest-ever goalscorer (in that bronze medal match) and won Canadian U-17 Player of the Year honours.
"I look at this year as a launching pad for this team," said Sinclair. "Getting on the podium at London 2012 was amazing and a dream come true, but I really feel that this year for Canada Soccer's Women's National Team, there's no turning back from this moment. We are only going to get better. The future is so bright for this team. I just see 2016 as the year that we put the Canadian women's soccer team on the map in terms of the world stage."
New heights in 2017 and beyond
In terms of her own season highlights, Christine Sinclair will always remember passing Mia Hamm for second place on the all-time international goals list. Hamm was a superstar from the first four editions of the FIFA Women's World Cup, winning it all in 1991 and 2003. From 1987 to 2004, she scored 158 goals in 275 international matches.
"As a kid growing up, Mia Hamm was the face of soccer," said Christine Sinclair. "I remember thinking after my first year or two on the national team, 'she had so many goals, how is anyone ever going to reach that level.' So to pass her this year, for me it was one of those moments that was pretty cool and something that I will never forget."
After scoring seven goals in 2016, Sinclair has 165 career goals in 250 international matches. Still only 33 years young, she is as dangerous as ever in front of goal, although now that much more impressive as an influential leader both on and off the pitch.
"My focus for the next four years will be get this team ranked number one in the world," said Sinclair. "That motivates me every day and I hope that motivates my teammates. We proved at Rio 2016 that we are capable of beating anyone and consistently beating anyone in the world. To win a FIFA Women's World Cup or to win an Olympic gold, that motivates me right now."