The last time the Canadian women’s national team played in Hamilton was in May 2015, a friendly match against England that came days before Canada began hosting the Women’s World Cup.
Canada was ranked eighth in the world then, according to FIFA. England sat at No. 6. Midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who scored the game’s lone goal to give Canada the victory, remembers it as a “massive occasion.”
“There was a lot of hype around the World Cup, the team was on edge,” Schmidt said. “We were in a good space, flying high and had a lot of energy.”
But the next month, England knocked Canada out of the tournament’s quarterfinals with a 2-1 win in Vancouver. The No. 8 team met the expectations that came with their ranking.
Three years later, as Canada returns to Tim Hortons Field for a friendly against No. 3 Germany on Sunday, a lot has changed for Schmidt and the women’s national team.
Canada has a new coach in Dane Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who replaced John Herdman in January after the Englishman’s move to the men’s team. Only 11 of the players on the 23-woman World Cup roster were part of the camp before Sunday’s match, but the program is now ranked fourth in the world. And there is more talent up front, with multiple offensive threats complementing captain Christine Sinclair.
While the 2012 London Olympics, where Canada earned the first of back-to-back bronze medals, is generally considered the turning point for the women’s team, it has continued to improve since then.
“We’ve found our place in the soccer world now,” midfielder Desiree Scott said this week.
Getting to this point hasn’t always been easy, and Herdman’s recent departure came as a shock to the squad, but the Canadians remain confident as they work toward next year’s World Cup in France. Heiner-Moller was Herdman’s assistant before his promotion and the familiarity has helped with the transition.