OPINION | Despite Canada’s unsavoury Women’s World Cup exit, it was important to chronicle the journey | CBC Sports

Penalties. A major storyline around this World Cup has been extra time and then dramatic penalty shootouts at every stage of the tournament.

The penalty shootout that saw co-hosts Australia advance to the semifinals was one of the most exciting and exhausting in recent memory. That particular shootout saw a most riveting rivalry between France and Australia go down to the wire.

If you missed it, the shootout had ten penalty kicks each (yes, ten), with the Matildas finally winning the contest 7-6. Cortnee Vine scored the winning penalty for the Matildas and thrust the co-hosts into the World Cup semifinals for the very first time.

As the crowds in Australia erupted in joy, it was delightful to see all the videos going viral of airplanes to fan zones to even a match at the storied Melbourne Cricket Ground putting the women’s game first and cheering wildly.

I have been back from the tournament for a week and being here while following the action seems a little surreal. From being in a place where the women’s game is centred and there are posters of Sam Kerr and the team everywhere to returning to Canada to disappointment is a little tough — not to mention the jet lag.

It feels a little deflating to be home. Although I am constantly excited by the matches and the players, I am dialled into any off-field drama and following the various discourses, but also the laughs.

This was my third Women’s World Cup experience. But it was the first where a host nation valued and prioritized the tournament and the public was constantly buzzing. I realize that when Canada hosted the 2015 World Cup it was also during the same time as the Stanley Cup Finals, and so attention was split.

It made me think about Canada as a soccer nation.

In Australia, there were rugby and Aussie rules footy matches happening and it didn’t take away from the love and support for the Matildas. The point being that there is room for everyone to love all sports and support the growth of the women’s game.

Part of me wishes that Canada would still care about the tournament half a world away, and although the matches are not at an optimal time still value the finals and the history being made. I remember watching the men’s World Cup final at my brother’s place in December.

Not enough domestic attention on Women’s World Cup

Canada did not make it beyond the group stage but there we were, all excited for an Argentina-France final, watching with 1.5 billion people.

As the summer rolls on and the World Athletic competition begins, the Blue Jays play on, the WNBA gives us more exciting ball and the buzz about a certain MLS player in Miami continues.

I will feel a little heavy hearted that our country’s attention is not focused on this magnificent grand stage.

Hopefully I am wrong and the numbers of viewership of the final few matches will show us that the hype is real, just as everything from broadcast numbers to jersey and ticket sales have spiked. There is a tremendous amount of joy and heartbreak left in this tournament and for us to experience.

Canadians care about the growth of the game globally in addition to the sustainability of soccer in Canada. Growth of women’s football in different countries is a reminder and should encourage Canada to think long and hard about how it can grow, what needs to happen and how we support women’s soccer from the grassroots all the way up to the development teams of the national program.

Canada is a soccer country and our attention and our interest should remain steadfast. Caring about soccer in Canada includes supporting semi-professional women’s teams, university and college teams — and, of course, Project 8’s new domestic league in Canada. There is movement in expansion of teams all across Canada including the Halifax Wanderers’ announcement that the club will start a women’s side.

As I watch the Women’s World Cup with keen interest, it’s important to take note of how we can do better and be a stronger country on the world stage. I was extremely proud to be part of the team that was sent to Australia by CBC to cover this tournament despite Canadian media sending fewer journalists to cover Canada’s participation at the World Cup.

Although Canada’s story in Australia did not end the way many of us hoped, it’s important to chronicle and amplify. And the journey of this team continues right into September when Canada faces Jamaica in two matches for their Olympic qualifiers. There was a time when Canada’s participation at mega tournaments seemed guaranteed but that may not be the case.

Supporting the team in September is imperative, and watching the end of the Women’s World Cup is also critical. The world needs to know that Canada is serious about the beautiful game and that we are here to stay. Our passion for sport can not hinge on a result alone — if that was the case how would we even begin to address any love for Maple Leaf fans? I say this tongue in cheek as a person who grew up loving the Montreal Canadiens.

Support is in our soul and should be carried forth in the most beautiful of games as we inch toward very exciting semifinals and then finals on the weekend.

Yes, the third place match at 4 am EDT on Saturday morning is not optimal nor is a 6 am EDT final on Sunday ahead of that we have a phenomenal meeting of Australia and England and Spain against Sweden. I don’t make predictions but I can say that there is some glorious play waiting for us. Does it involve a penalty shootout? Not sure if my blood pressure can take it. But that is part of this wildly exciting tournament.

Whatever there is, I will be watching along with the world and hopefully many Canadians.

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