Canada coach John Herdman says expect some new faces for team at Rio Olympics

TORONTO — Two days after watching his team exit the Women’s World Cup, Canadian coach John Herdman had yet to watch video of the game.

“No, there’s no need to do that,” he said in an interview Monday. “I’m pretty clear on where things are. And what we got out of that and what we didn’t.”

A tournament review is planned, to help prepare for the 2016 Olympic campaign.

“When I do that, I’ll do it with passion and integrity and no remorse,” he said. “At this point I haven’t got the ability to look at anything yet.”

Herdman said he still felt gutted in the wake of Saturday’s 2-1 quarter-final loss to England, despite ticking off his team’s biggest box.

“Which was have a moment in this World Cup, where everyone in Canada got round their TVs, barbecues were lit and people genuinely connected with us,” he said from Vancouver. “And the performance out there, it wasn’t one we were un-proud of. The girls gave it everything. There wasn’t anything that people went ‘Canada were rubbish, they’re an awful team.’ Some people might of, but the majority were with us. So that box was ticked.

“But as Christine (captain Christine Sinclair) said, the stinging thing is that it was a team we could have beat. If that’s the U.S. or French, people are going to say ‘Ah well. You know. Canada, hard luck.’ But England were there for the taking, we knew it. And we just didn’t do it. I think that’s what hurts. That’s what really hurts.”

Next up for Herdman are the Pan American Games.

He will assist Daniel Worthington in leading a young Olympic developmental side that includes World Cup players Kadeisha Buchanan, Stephanie Labbe, Ashley Lawrence and Jessie Fleming.

Rebecca Quinn, Janine Beckie, Nichelle Prince and Chelsea Stewart have also seen time with the Canadian senior side. Defender Kinley McNicholl captained Canada at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Some from the Games team will transition to the senior side for the Olympics.

“Some of those players we know lots about, some of those players we know a little bit about through them being in youth events,” said Herdman. “But the purpose is the future, to look at out opportunities to build the best team going into the Rio Games.”

The Olympics represent the peak of Herdman’s quadrennial cycle, timing dictated by funding for the most part. 

“The World Cup is just one of the staging posts on the way. It happened to be one of the most significant staging posts in the history of our country. Which means if you were sticking true to a quadrennial plan, you know you might have had a different squad there, you might have had different players involved.

“But the reality of a home World Cup and what you need in terms of the character of people, the qualities of people — some of that revolves around keeping some of those senior players engaged because of what they bring, their experience and their commitment on and off the pitch.”

The plans was always 23 players for the World Cup and 18 for the Olympics, with Herdman suggesting that some of the younger players who might not have been ready for this World Cup will be for the Olympics.

“That’s why the Pan American Games are so important because those players get tournament experience — good tournament experience which will prepare them for Rio.”

Herdman has asked his players to ponder their football future and goals. He will meet with them individually in mid-August.

He says expect some fresh faces in Rio de Janeiro. “I’m hoping those fresh faces can be where the gaps are currently in this team and the gaps that we need to fill quickly if we want to get on the podium.”

While Herdman had nothing but praise for Canadian fans, he acknowledged that he and his players believed some of the domestic media coverage was unduly harsh.

“I think in any big event, you’ve got to expect that. But I don’t think people expected it to be from people that they trusted and had been part and around our team and environment.”

Herdman did not name names. But former Canadian international Christine Latham, working as an analyst for Fox TV, caused a stir with her comments about morale in the Canada camp and Herdman’s selection policy.

Herdman suggested former players, better than most, should know the changing face of the women’s game and how the gap between teams was closing. 

“And then we know that out there are people who get paid to polarize,” Herdman said. “That’s their job to create interest and polarize thinking. We’re not going to hammer those people. Yeah it’s frustrating but those people do a job and they do it well.

“I think what we all get frustrated with is when people that don’t know you make assumptions about you. That’s always the hard part. We always want people to seek to understand before being understood and most people just want to be understood without any understanding.

“And that would be the only gripes. The media have been great, I mean everyone sort of got behind us once we got into the Swiss game (in the round of 16). They were writing us off to start and then all of sudden you get that support and when that support comes, you can see how powerful the country can be.”

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press