The U.S. was roundly chastised for celebrating goals long after Thailand had been vanquished in a Women’s World Cup opener.
Some of that criticism was undoubtedly fueled by the fact the Americans are three-time tournament champions who, except for a six-month spell in 2015, have been ranked No. 1 in the world for 11 years.
Forward Carli Lloyd, who is playing in her fourth Women’s World Cup, said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We always have a target on our backs. But why wouldn’t you want that?” she said Friday. “No. 1 team in the world. We won the last World Cup and we’re trying to win this World Cup again.
“When there’s a target on your back, when people are talking about you, you’re doing something right.”
Lloyd also weighed in on the use of video replay to review on-field calls. The system is being used for the first time in a Women’s World Cup and has already proven controversial, with Swiss referee Esther Staubil pausing Thursday’s Brazil-Australia game three times for lengthy video reviews — two of which directly affected goals in Australia’s 3-2 win.
“I am actually a big fan of it,” Lloyd said. “Maybe I wouldn’t be if we had a controversial call against us. But it’s part of it.
“It’s going to help the game because it’s just going to keep all players honest. Everybody’s watching. We’ve got 16-some cameras watching. There’s nothing that’s going to go unnoticed.”
With a win Saturday, Canada would be off to a 2-0 start in a Women’s World Cup for the first time and on to the second round for a second consecutive tournament. A win seems likely since the opponent, New Zealand, hasn’t won a Women’s World Cup game in 13 tries, the longest winless streak in tournament history.
For Canada, the positive momentum started at the 2012 London Olympics, captain Christine Sinclair said.
In the semifinals of that tournament, the Canadians took the U.S. to the final seconds of extra time before losing, then recovered three days later to win the bronze medal, a finish it would repeat four years later in Brazil.
“London was a surprise to everyone outside of our team,” Sinclair said. “It’s just been building since then.”
Sinclair was born and raised outside Vancouver but went to college in Portland, where she still plays for the Thorns of the NWSL. That used to be the traditional path for a Canadian with aspirations of a soccer career.
“You went down to the States to go to college just because the opportunities weren’t there in terms of professional leagues in Europe,” she said. “That’s totally changing.”
Last month, nine days after her 18th birthday, Sinclair’s teammate Jordyn Huitema passed up college to sign a four-year deal with French club Paris Saint-Germain.