Morace will finally lose Teflon image in wake of Canada’s embarrassing loss By Steven Sandor Posted on June 30, 2011 3 0 552 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Coach Carolina Morace (right) and staff. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER Carolina Morace’s skin has been made of Teflon. The Canadian national women’s coach has got what amounts to a free pass from soccer fans and the media in this country. In the wake of Canada’s humiliating 4-0 defeat to France Thursday at the Women’s World Cup, the questions that haven’t been asked of Morace need to come to the surface. This wasn’t just a humbling defeat; it marks a major talking point for women’s soccer in this country. Canada’s final group-stage game against the Nigerians is basically a friendly, with both teams going home after the fact. Did winning a few pre-World Cup tournaments give us the false sense that we were far better than they actually were? Is this program really not as far along as it should be? And Thursday was a massive failure. After holding its own against the No. 1 ranked Germans, Canada was overrun by a dominant French side in a game it has known for months that it needed to win to get out of the toughest qualifying group at the World Cup. Morace got what she wanted. It was her decision to have Canada’s national team hold its training camp in an Italian enclave, far away from any domestic media who might have been interested in covering the program. The friendlies were played behind closed doors. The team prepared, went through the Xs and Os, but did so without pressure — other than the competition for spots. Let’s face it, playing Switzerland and Hungary when there’s nothing on the line doesn’t mentally prepare you for a do-or-die game against France, one of the rising powers in women’s soccer. The result was the most lopsided loss a Canadian men or women’s team has suffered since the men were swamped in Buenos Aires by Argentina in a pre-World Cup tuneup for the South American power. A large number of the French team played in the UEFA women’s Champions League; and it was clear that the big gap between the teams was in the area of mental toughness. France embraced the challenge, Canada wilted from it. Would the Canadian women have been better-prepared had they trained for the World Cup at home? If they had to deal with cameras at their training sessions? If they had to deal with the spotlight? Hell yes. The Americans don’t have any qualms about preparing for the World Cup at home. There’s no denying that the Canadian team’s play has improved immensely under Morace’s watch. She exorcised the long-ball attack, bringing in a passing system that involved all of the players on the pitch. But, this loss to France was a sign of a team that’s not mentally tough. When the pressure was on, the Canadians shrunk. A coach has to be a motivator and psychologist as well as a tactician. Media avoidance strategy Morace doesn’t face the media in the same way that men’s coach Stephen Hart does. He does regular conference calls and takes the heat. Morace needs to come to grips with the fact that being a national soccer coach in Canada isn’t just about running practices and setting starting lineups. She needs to be accountable, available and an ambassador for the game. It was clear from the opening kickoff who was going to win. Canada only had one scoring chance of note in the first half, with Diana Matheson taking an inadvertent touch on the ball that spoiled her own shooting opportunity. Meanwhile, the French laid siege to Canadian keeper Erin McLeod. Shots were tipped over the bar. Headers went just off target. The French dominated the wings, and kept pounding the ball into the Canadian penalty area. France got the first goal in the 24th minute. A deflected crossing attempt looped into the air. For Gaetane Thiney to head over a helpless McLeod. Thiney was played onside by Rhian Wilkinson, who was late to move up from the left back position. It was just one of many Canadian mental errors in this game. Star Christine Sinclair played with a mask, having a go despite the broken nose she suffered in the opener against Germany. But even that could not shake the team from its collective lethargy. In the end, Sinclair’s goal will end up being a vainglorious highlight from yet another failed campaign. In the second half, the French were granted the scoreline they deserved. Canadian defender Emily Zurrer made a lazy pass into a dead space just outside the penalty area. Thiney pounced on it and unleashed a rocket of a shot that gave McLeod no chance. Camille Abily was left unmarked, allowing her an easy chance to head home a corner kick. And Elodie Thomis added a late marker. Can’t call it an insurance goal because, from early on, we all knew that this was going to France’s day. Canada won a lot of preseason tournaments in places like Brazil and Cyprus. The team stepped out of the limelight for months. Then, when the spotlight was placed on the team, it clearly was suffering from stagefright. It played out of character. Passing was replaced by hit-and-hope balls aimed for Sinclair. The fact that Canada was able to play Germany close and be dominated by France is a classic case of a letdown after a big match; and that’s another sign of fragility. We are four years away from hosting the next Women’s World Cup. We need each and every moment to prepare, because the program is clearly not close to being ready yet. And, next time Morace wants to hide away in Italy, it might be time the Canadian Soccer Association suggests to her that she make it a one-way ticket. Morace has done enough to prove that she deserves to stay. But she needs to drag her team into pressure situations, not away from them.