Soak it in, Canada fans: You may have just witnessed the most gratifying result in the history of the women’s national team.
As your eyebrows crinkle incredulously, let’s have some context. It’s true, Canada and Germany were both resting some key players in Tuesday’s group-stage finale at the Rio Olympics, with neither team needing a win to reach the knockout stage.
And while the Canadians’ unexpected 2-1 victory was a thrilling shot in the arm for the entire Canadian Olympic team, there are myriad legit contenders for the crown of most gratifying victory in this program’s history.
Just last year, head coach John Herdman’s team won a World Cup knockout game over Switzerland in front of a raucous home crowd of nearly 54,000.
Four years ago, Canada battened down the hatches against a technically superior French team and popped a last-minute winner to claim a historic Olympic bronze.
You could even go back to 2003, when Canada – featuring a 20-year-old kid named Christine Sinclair – upset China in the World Cup quarterfinals, en route to a best-ever fourth-place finish.
But none of those results can quite match the impact of earning a first-ever win over a perennial Tier I team (Germany had won all 12 previous matches against Canada), in a major tournament, under the sort of scrutiny the Canadian team has faced since truly breaking into the mainstream at the London Games.
For a team that has, under Herdman, so heavily emphasized the importance of psychological preparation, there is no substitute for the experience of coming through and performing in circumstances such as those.
No longer are the Germans an unbeatable bogey team.
Never again will the wins column in all-time matchups between the two teams read zero for Canada. And if they can get to one, why not two? And then why not…you see where this is going.
If Canada can prevail even without Sinclair, Janine Beckie or Kadeisha Buchanan playing a single minute, what can they do when those three are back in the starting lineup?
And if Germany is beatable, is there any team that isn’t?
That’s massive, given the teams could be on a collision course in the semifinals, if both win their respective quarterfinals. But first for Canada comes a difficult, must-win match against France on Friday, an unenviable task for any team.
It’s so unenviable, in fact, that prior to Tuesday’s game against Germany, many Canadian fans took a familiar approach – preemptively finding the silver lining in an assumed negative result. A loss to Germany is no big deal, the thinking went; in fact, it’s the way to get an easier matchup in the quarterfinals. Yes, losing to Germany is going to be a good thing!
But then a funny thing happened on the way to yet another glass-half-full result.
Taking center stage in the absence of Sinclair and Beckie, Melissa Tancredi turned back the clock and scored a brace, reminding jaded Canadian fans of the form she showed back in London, when she was a crucial ingredient in the squad’s success.
It remains to be seen whether the activation of “Tanc Mode” was a one-night-only affair. Either way, in what’s assumed to be her final big tournament, the 34-year-old helped provide the program with a result that will long outlive this competition.
Because while beating Germany surely felt great for a longtime national-team warrior like Tancredi, it could be even more meaningful in the long run for the likes of Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Jessie Fleming and Rebecca Quinn.
Those players, none of them older than 21, will be the core of a team that’s meant to peak in the 2019/2020 cycle. They will be the living, breathing link between the youngsters who’ll continue populating the senior-team roster in the years to come and “the day we beat Germany at the Olympics.”
Perhaps a day will come when defeating the likes of Germany, France and (hey, who knows) the United States will be a relatively commonplace occurrence for Canada. That day may never come, but if it does, Tuesday’s win will surely be regarded as a transformational moment.
But whatever happens during the rest of the Olympic tournament, Tancredi’s channeling of her inner Lazarus against Germany has allowed Canadian players and fans to indefinitely channel their inner Kevin Garnett.
From here on out, anything is possible.