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Soccer provides memorable Canadian sports moments



Soccer provides memorable Canadian sports moments

Copa America joined a list that includes Donovan Bailey, Bianca Andreescu, the Toronto Blue Jays and Canada’s Olympic hockey team

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Imagine telling Canadians 2-3 decades ago the country would be transfixed in 2024 by a Copa America match.

“What’s Copa America?” would have been the response.

Soccer, mate. “Football,” really. The world’s most popular sport, which Tuesday night certainly attracted more than four million Canadian viewers for TSN’s telecast of Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi scoring one of the goals in a 2-0 victory over Canada.

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There were 81,000 fans inside Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, scheduled site of the 2026 World Cup final, and a few of them wore Canadian jerseys, waved flags and could define offside, VAR, set pieces, yellow cards, the influence of new head coach Jesse Marsch, the innate talents of captain Alphonso Davies and why the Argentinian players fall, then writhe in agony when nobody touches them.

It wasn’t a world championship. It wasn’t even the tournament finale.

And Canada didn’t win, but the game still joined a pantheon of memorable Canadian sports moments like the women’s soccer team winning gold in the last Olympics, Donovan Bailey’s gold-medal sprint in the 100 metres at the 1996 Olympics, the Toronto Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series victories 31 years ago, Canada winning men’s hockey gold at the Vancouver Olympics, the Toronto Raptors’ lone NBA championship, Bianca Andreescu beating tennis superstar Serena Williams in the U.S. Open, most Grey Cup games, golfer Brooke Henderson breaking a 45-year home-country drought by winning the 2019 Canadian Women’s Open in Regina and Nick Taylor ending a 69-year drought for Canadian golfers at last year’s Canadian Open.

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Argentina is the top-rated team in the world, currently trying to defend its Copa America title. In 2026, Messi and his cohorts will be vying to repeat as World Cup champion.

Canada is Number 48 in the world.

Playing in its first Copa America, Canada lost a preliminary game to Argentina, defeated Peru, drew Chile and eliminated Venezuela on penalty kicks in a quarter-final. That set up the do-we-have-a-chance rematch against Argentina, where the reigning champions showed their superiority and depth while advancing to the final, relegating Canada to Saturday’s bronze-medal match.

If only Canada could score! Scoring only two regular-time goals during the entire tournament, plus some strange referee’s calls in the final, left Marsch and midfielder Ishmaël Koné visbly frustrated against Argentina. Marsch, an American known as a superior tactician, was hired seven weeks ago and marvelled at the bond among his players, who gather for international matches from their pro teams in Europe, Canada and South America,

Postgame discussions and interviews focused on Canada’s improvement during the past few years, with optimism that feeder leagues would continue to provide the national team with better and better players.

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“It’s very important for people back home to understand it’s possible to be here more times,” midfielder Stephen Eustáquio of Leamington, Ont., told TSN’s Matthew Scianitti in a postgame interview. “We have the team for it.

“I just wish the (Canadian Premier League) starts pushing more so we can grow more Canadian players who can support us going on.”

Despite the earlier successes and attention earned by Christine Sinclair and the women’s squad, Soccer Canada has been in turmoil recently, squabbling with its national teams about finances, travel, training and games. The prize money awarded from Copa America could assuage issues with the national teams.

Soccer has always been considered an easy and inexpensive sport to try — just throw a ball onto a field and a game can break out. Locally and provincially there are organized clubs with knowledgeable coaches, outdoor pitches everywhere and more indoor facilities to allow for year-round training.

With its multi-cultural background, Canada is seeing more diversity in its sports, to the point where hockey is being challenged as the favourite. Canadians have also been shining internationally in golf, tennis and athletics, but even they haven’t drawn widespread attention like the “beautiful game,” particularly now with Canada having qualified for the 2026 World Cup.

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