Canada's Christine Sinclair (12) fights for the ball with New Zealand's Katie Duncan (4) during FIFA World Cup during first half action in Edmonton

Canada's Christine Sinclair (12) fights for the ball with New Zealand's Katie Duncan (4) during FIFA World Cup during first half action in Edmonton

Herdman says Christine Sinclair makes everyone on team better

Known for her goal-scoring, Christine Sinclair turned provider in helping lift Canada to the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals. After dogged work by Allysha Chapman separated the ball from a Swiss player, Sinclair aimed a cross at Josee Belanger in the penalty box. A Swiss defender headed it away, but only as far as Rhian Wilkinson. The veteran fullback whipped a cross in and Sinclair, anticipating the ball and then outmuscling a defender, poked it to Belanger who fired a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann for a 1-0 Canada win.

VANCOUVER — Known for her goal-scoring, Christine Sinclair turned provider in helping lift Canada to the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals.

After dogged work by Allysha Chapman separated the ball from a Swiss player, Sinclair aimed a cross at Josee Belanger in the penalty box. A Swiss defender headed it away, but only as far as Rhian Wilkinson. The veteran fullback whipped a cross in and Sinclair, anticipating the ball and then outmuscling a defender, poked it to Belanger who fired a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann for a 1-0 Canada win.

Under coach John Herdman, Sinclair is no longer at the front of the Canadian ship. She is there to float the entire boat, making everyone better.

Despite being a key cog in both Canadian victories at the tournament, the 32-year-old forward from Burnaby, B.C., has drawn criticism from some quarters for her play as the Canadian offence rattled and coughed like a rusty engine in the early going.

Too slow. Past it.

In the Canadian camp, such criticism of their talisman is heresy.

“That woman doesn’t deserve to take stick,” an emotional Herdman said after Sunday’s game. “She’s a world-class person, world-class player. She gives everything to this team every single game.

“Look you put her in a different team, she’ll score 20 goals. But look around at the goal-scorers at this tournament. (Sweden’s Lotta) Schelin goes home without a goal, (American Abby) Wambach pokes one in. (Brazil’s) Marta gets one. International football ain’t easy and Sinclair’s given everything, every single game.

“Off the pitch, she’s doing more than she’s ever done before to keep this team connected. She’s the pride of our country and she’s going to stay that. And we should be proud of what that woman’s putting in to this Women’s World Cup for our team.”

Warming to the topic, Herdman said Sinclair is playing her role to perfection — “to bring other players to another level.”

“And if she’s going to put that sort of work in, you’ll see the best out of (fellow forward Melissa) Tancredi and Belanger. And I think that’s what she does. So at some point, Christine will do what we all expect Christine to do.

At some point. She did it against China in front of 50,000 people (in the tournament opener), took a penalty that most human beings would have walked away from. But she’s there.

“And I’m proud that she was able to put in a shift like that in B.C. Place.”

Eighth-ranked Canada will look to their captain again Saturday in the quarter-final at the same venue against either No. 6 England or No. 11 Norway.

As is her want, Sinclair deflected praise for her part in the goal against the Swiss to Wilkinson for her ability to deliver a cross.

The Canadian captain also sacrificed her body for the cause against the Swiss, landing face down after a collision that left her with a charley-horse. “We’re all good,” she said with a crooked smile afterwards.

Sinclair is revered by her teammates. Some have grown up alongside her, watching her turn into a soccer icon. Younger members of the squad still pinch themselves that they are on the same team as their idol.

“My childhood dream every single day,” forward Jonelle Filigno said of lining up with Sinclair.

Behind the scenes, Herdman has convinced the private Sinclair to open up to her teammates — further strengthening that connection.

He even used a photo of a disconsolate Sinclair, on the ground after the gut-wrenching Olympic semifinal loss to the U.S., to motivate the team.

The shy Sinclair does not shun the media spotlight but chooses her moments, often leaving veterans like Erin McLeod and Karina LeBlanc to speak for the team.

Her teammates reject any negative reviews of her captain.

“I think anyone who criticizes her is misinformed,” said Wilkinson.

“I think it’s easy for people to say that are (only) watching a couple of games,” McLeod, speaking before the Swiss game, said of the criticism. “I have the privilege of training with Sinclair every day and in my opinion she’s the best player in the world. That hasn’t changed.

“We maybe as a team have to get her the ball more, in more dangerous places. But the tournament is just beginning, I hope for us, and I think there’s a lot more to see.”

Under Herdman, Sinclair uses her loping run to patrol the entire field. And wherever she goes, she brings passion, vision and creativity.

Ask her teammates who is the best player of the world is and the answer is rapid-fire.

“Christine Sinclair, hands down,” said midfielder Kaylyn Kyle.

“She’s unbelievable,” said midfielder Sophie Schmidt. “I love playing alongside her. She makes me look good and she makes it look effortless. She’s just class.”

“Such a great person, a great player,” said forward Adriana Leon.

“She’s just an inspiration to play with and be with,” added teenage midfielder Jessie Fleming.

The Canadian women have a fierce pride in their leader, especially for her low-key style. While Sinclair dips her toe into social media only occasionally, teammates say they see her sharp sense of humour on a regular basis.

And their say their captain is anything but a big-time Charlie.

“She is so humble,” said Filigno. “That’s what makes her so likable … She’s the best striker in the world to me.”

Said LeBlanc: “I think she’s a perfect leader for us and for this nation.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 in Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse via AP
Health Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

A fallen Western Red cedar tree at Francis/King Regional Park in Saanich, B.C., Thursday, May 26, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Logging delay agreement for B.C. old-growth tree stand helps endangered spotted owls

Deal announced to hold off logging watershed for a year

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

FILE - Cameron Forte (right) and his Fraser Valley Bandits are 2-0 at the Canadian Elite Basketball League Summer Series after being the Saskatchewan Rattlers. (CEBL photo)
CEBL releases 14-game 2021 schedule, hopes to see fans attend games in person

Season will kick off with the Edmonton Stingers and the Fraser Valley Bandits

FILE - Keegan Messing performs during the Men’s Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won’t be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing leads Canadian figure skating team at world championships

Messing was the only Canadian to compete on the Grand Prix circuit this season

Nurses episode, titled “Achilles Heel,” was first aired on Global in February 2020. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Global pulls ‘Nurses’ episode after scene with Orthodox Jews deemed anti-Semitic

TORONTO — Global TV says it has pulled an episode of Toronto-set… Continue reading

Lady Gaga is offering a $500,000 reward for the return of her two French bulldogs. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Lady Gaga’s dog walker shot, French bulldogs stolen in LA

Dog walker expected to survive injuries

Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano tries to help goaltender David Rittich stop a shot from Ottawa Senators right wing Drake Batherson during first-period NHL action Thursday, February 25, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Most Read