TOP 5 MOMENTS of Christine Sinclair's legendary CanWNT career
On December 5, Canada will say farewell to one of its greatest-ever athletes, as Christine Sinclair plays the final match of her international career with the women’s national team.
In Langford, British Columbia on Friday, Sinclair and Canada will be at Starlight Stadium for the first of two international friendlies against Australia, before heading to Vancouver for the second match of the two-game series on Tuesday. BC Place in Vancouver will be renamed Christine Sinclair Place for that match, with Chris May, General Manager of BC Place, saying that they will be “paying tribute to the profound impact she has had on her hometown and its aspiring athletes” by renaming it temporarily.
With the final moments of her national team career on the horizon, here are her top five moments with Canada:
5. Scoring twice at a home World Cup
With Canada hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Christine Sinclair was a key part of the Canadian squad that got a rare opportunity to play a World Cup on home soil. Sinclair was one of the faces of the tournament, and scored twice… because of course she did.
Her first goal came in Canada’s first group stage match, at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton against China. Scoreless after 90 minutes, Canada were awarded a late penalty in second half stoppage time, and up stepped Canada’s captain to bury it in the 92nd minute and earn Canada a 1-0 victory.
Canada advanced out of their group, and won their round of 16 game against Switzerland, setting up a quarter-final against England at BC Place. Les Rouges conceded twice in the opening 15 minutes, before Sinclair pulled one back in her home province at the end of the first half. There wouldn’t be any goals after the break, however, and Canada’s tournament came to an end at the hands of the Lionesses.
Having the opportunity to play in a World Cup on home soil doesn’t come around very often. For most players, it will never happen, but Sinclair got that opportunity and took advantage of it.
4. Winning Canadian Player of the Year for the 14th time
It won’t come as any surprise to hear that Christine Sinclair has been named Canada Soccer’s Player of the Year multiple times, but what is truly remarkable is that she has won the award on fourteen occasions.
Sinclair first won the award in 2000 after her breakout first year on the national team. After Andrea Neil won in 2001, and Charmaine Hooper won for the third and fourth times in her career in 2002 and 2003, Sinclair went on an incredible run that included eleven consecutive Player of the Year honours from 2004 to 2014. It was absolute dominance during some of the most pivotal years for the national team.
Sinclair’s streak was broken in 2015, when Kadeisha Buchanan won for the first of three times in her career thus far, but Sinclair took the title right back in 2016 after leading Canada to a second-consecutive Olympic bronze medal. Buchanan won for the second time in 2017, but Sinclair again took the award back in 2018 — for the 14th, and potentially final, time in her glittering career.
It’s not impossible that they name the award after Sinclair one day.
3. London 2012 Olympics and Canadian Athlete of the Year awards
What makes Christine Sinclair one of the all-time greats is her longevity, and consistency over such a long career. The height of her powers may have been in 2012, however, as she led Canada onto the Olympic podium for the first time and was honoured with some of Canada’s top sporting awards.
At London 2012, the lethal duo of Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi combined for six goals in the group stage as Canada lost 2-1 to Japan, beat South Africa 3-0, and drew 2-2 with Sweden. Sinclair scored both of her group stage goals in the win against South Africa, with Tancredi scoring the rest. After qualifying for the quarterfinals as the best third place team, Canada then knocked out Great Britain with a 2-0 victory at City of Coventry Stadium, with Jonelle Filigno and Sinclair scoring in the first half.
Then came the match that everyone remembers, probably more than the rest of the tournament combined. Canada against the United States at Old Trafford in the 2012 Olympic semifinal.
Sinclair had the lone goal of the first half, scoring in the 22nd minute, before Megan Rapinoe tied things up nine minutes after half time. Then chaos ensued, as Sinclair scored her second of the match in the 67th minute, Rapinoe responded in the 70th minute, and Sinclair completed her hat trick to give Canada the lead in the 73rd in a wild sequence. Then, the Americans scored in a way that has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Canadians for over a decade since.
Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was penalized for holding onto the ball for too long, an infraction that is called incredibly rarely, so the Americans received an indirect free kick inside the Canadian penalty box. Rapinoe’s shot struck Diana Matheson before hitting the arm of Marie-Ève Nault, sending Abby Wambach (more on her in a moment) to the penalty spot. Wambach scored, sending the match to extra tie, where Alex Morgan would score in the 123rd minute to give the United States a spot in the gold medal game.
The usually-reserved Sinclair was fed up after that result, alleging that the referee had “decided the result before it started”, and nine years later when Canada beat the United States in the Tokyo 2020 semifinal, admitted that “it was nice to get a little revenge.”
Canada would go on to beat France in the bronze medal match, 1-0 on a 92nd-minute goal from Diana Matheson back at the City of Coventry Stadium. It was the women’s national team’s first Olympic medal, and they have since gone on to win two more — another bronze in Rio de Janeiro four years later, and of course gold in Tokyo five years after that.
Sinclair won the Golden Boot at London 2012, with her six total goals beating Wambach’s five, and was Canada’s closing ceremony flag bearer. Her celebrity status exploded to even greater heights back home in Canada, and in 2012 she picked up some of Canada’s top sporting honours — the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award for being Canada’s female athlete of the year, and the Northern Star Award as Canada’s top athlete overall. She also finished fifth for the FIFA World Player of the Year.
She scored 23 goals in 22 international matches that year for Canada, delivering on the world stage as well in one of the most impressive years ever by a Canadian athlete.
2. The Greatest International Goalscorer Of All Time
Between 2001 and 2015, American striker Abby Wambach made over 250 appearances for her national team, and scored an impressive 184 goals — then the record for men or women on the international stage. For many years, the conversation around who the best striker in the world was centred around Wambach and her Canadian counterpart Sinclair.
For six-and-a-half years, Wambach stood alone at the top of the list for the most international goals. She broke Mia Hamm’s record on June 20, 2013 with her 159th goal for the United States, and finished her career with 184.
On January 29, 2020 at H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas, that record was finally broken. One back of the record, Sinclair scored goal number 184 from the penalty spot — the opening (and winning) goal in an Olympic qualifier against Saint Kitts and Nevis. Less than 20 minutes later, Sinclair stood alone with goal number 185, a tally which has since risen to 190.
Wambach posted a video after Sinclair broke her record, including the passage: “History is made. Your victory is our victory. We celebrate with you.” That record may never be broken again, or maybe it will by one of the countless players that Sinclair, Wambach, and others have inspired over the years.
For the foreseeable future, however, that record belongs to a woman from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
1. Olympic gold in Tokyo
Number one on this countdown couldn’t be anything else. On August 6, 2021 — after more than 20 years with the national team — one of the sport’s greatest players finally got her hands on a major honour as Canada won the gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. Canada talked a lot heading into the tournament about wanting to “change the colour of the medal” after winning bronze in both 2012 and 2016, and wanting to win for their longtime captain, and that is exactly what they ended up doing.
Sinclair scored in Canada’s opening match against Japan, on what was her 300th appearance for Canada. That was her lone goal of the tournament, but she played a role in Canada’s other matches, including beating the United States for the first time in 20 years in the semifinal. In the gold medal match it was Sinclair who won the second half penalty that Jessie Fleming converted to tie match, a goal that sent Canada to extra time, where they would eventually beat Sweden on penalties for their first Olympic title.
Winning the Olympic gold medal is arguably the most important moment in Canadian soccer history, and Canada’s longtime hero was part of it all. Guess who scored in the first Celebration Tour match, at TD Place in Ottawa? You guessed it, it was Christine Sinclair.
Olympic gold was the crowning moment in a career full of them.