It is common knowledge that Christine Sinclair is the greatest player in the history of Canadian soccer, women or men.
The 36-year-old striker from Burnaby, B.C. is the second most prolific goal scorer on the pitch, scoring 182 career goals for Canada (American Abby Wombach leads with 184) and has led her country to the highest of heights since bursting onto the global stage in 2000.
However, a crucial decision by Sinclair may have cost her squad a victory in Monday’s World Cup quarterfinal showdown with ninth-ranked Sweden.
Trailing the Swedes 1-nil, Canada was awarded a penalty kick after the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) ruled a Swedish handball in the box.
Sinclair, who has successfully converted dozens of penalty kicks in high-pressure games, asked teammate Janine Beckie if she wanted to take the shot — an honourable gesture and one that Sinclair did not have to make.
Beckie accepted the challenge, but her kick from the spot was brilliantly stopped by the Swedish goalkeeper to preserve the one-goal lead.
The feeling was eerily similar to the 1998 Olympic men’s hockey semifinal between Canada and the eventual gold medal-winning Czech Republic when Wayne Gretzky didn’t get an opportunity in the shootout.
Despite a late-game charge by the fifth-ranked Canadians, they could not find an equalizer and Canada crashed out of the World Cup much sooner than many pundits had predicted.
Maybe Sinclair wasn’t feeling it, maybe her decision was a way of passing the torch to the next generation of Canadian soccer stars. For whatever reason, she didn’t take the shot.
As captain, as this country’s beacon for young soccer players, as one of the best players in the world, that was Sinclair’s moment.
Who knows, maybe Sweden’s Hedvig Lindahl would have stoned Sinclair’s attempt as well but at least soccer fans across the country and around the world would have accepted that Canada’s best was not good enough.
Now we and every player on Canada’s team is left wondering what could have been and the worst part is we will never find out.
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