On Monday evening, Montreal soccer fans were able to enjoy what will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience: seeing a World Cup game right here at home. The FIFA Women’s World Cup swung around to Montreal during its group stage to see Canada play the Netherlands, ending in a 1-1 draw.
Most of the 45,420 fans in attendance were dressed in red and white and filled the Olympic Stadium with cheers when the Canadian team emerged onto the field.
The game started with a confident Canadian side keeping possession, leading up to Ashley Lawrence scoring the first goal ten minutes in. The rest of the first half was fairly uneventful except for a few shots on net for both sides with no result. The excitement of the first 10 minutes faded quickly and the match became a bit sluggish before halftime, even with a hyped up crowd and head coach John Herdman shouting from the sideline.
The second half saw more Dutch possession and a few great chances at goals saved by Canadian goalie Erin McLeod. The Canadians just couldn’t seem to find that initial energy again, though, and missed huge chances like a free kick quite close to the Dutch net. Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt fell and stayed down for several minutes, later being replaced by Rhian Wilkinson because of her injury.
Finally, at the 87th minute, a plot twist came in the form of a goal for the Dutch, scored by Kirsten van de Ven. A surprising amount of cheering came from the stands, while the Canadian fans sat dejectedly, knowing that there wasn’t much time left. With only three minutes left plus three minutes of overtime, Canada had little chance to score again and in the end, did not.
This tied game means that Canada will be advancing to the next round with five points from a win and two draws. The team will need to focus on its offence in the knockout round, seeing as it only scored two goals so far in the tournament, one being from a penalty.
Judging from the turnout, the Canadian team will not have to look far for fan support in their home country. However, sparse attendance has been noted at other games this World Cup, notably in Montreal for a Spain vs. Costa Rica game which was almost empty with about 1,000 people in the stands.
This tells us that Montreal is not that much of a soccer city when our own teams aren’t playing – pure, honest love of the game doesn’t fill seats here as much as national pride does. But at the same time, it’s clear that women’s soccer is not seen as being as much of an attraction as men’s soccer.
FIFA has made some controversial decisions regarding the World Cup, the most disputed being that the tournament is being played on turf, not grass, something that would be unheard of in the men’s World Cup and did cause outrage in the sports world.
In any case, the turf situation did not help with FIFA’s reputation, which seems to be at an all-time low following the corruption investigation’s major findings and Sepp Blatter’s resignation. Just recently at an Ottawa Fury game, fans gathered afterwards to chant “FIFA Mafia.” So it looks like the decision to make the women’s teams play on turf was just one of the many badly received decisions made by FIFA.
Other World Cup games hosted in Montreal are on June 17, 21, 26 and 30.