It was incredible to watch the momentum build over the last week as a nation united behind Canada's women's soccer team at the London Olympics. Now the job is to ensure that time in the spotlight is put to good use moving forward.
With the Women's World Cup in Canada just under three years away, there is a golden opportunity for the Canadian Soccer Association to build on what has happened in London. For the growth of soccer in our country, this team can't just disappear for the next couple of years. There is a wonderful chance now to keep them in the public eye.
Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani is well aware of the responsibility the organization has to capitalise on the success.
"One of the things we have started doing over the last couple of years is to play more home matches, and that has to continue," Montagliani told me following the Olympics bronze medal match. "There is name recognition with this program now and we have to continue playing games on home soil as often as possible. We will look at playing games between now and the end of the year against high class opponents.
"This isn't just a great moment in isolation for the women's program - this is a great moment for football in Canada period. Whether you are male or female, what this team has done is inspired a whole football nation in Canada and it can impact facets of our organization. Their display of sheer utter courage throughout the tournament has allowed us all to go on an incredible ride."
One of the keys to Canada's success has been the first class job performed by head coach John Herdman. In the space of a year, he has managed to turn the team around and get the very best out of a squad that a year ago was left disillusioned following an incredibly disappointing World Cup.
"When we brought John in a year ago the timing was perfect," said Montagliani. "We all know that technically he can coach, but it is off the field that is the key to John's success in the way he treats his players and everybody around him. He doesn't leave any stone unturned in his preparation. As he put it to me one time, he has a very high EQ, an emotional quotient. In today's modern game it is very important that you have that."
With success comes attention. Herdman is under contract with the Canadian Soccer Association through to the end of 2015, but that wouldn't stop other countries targeting a proven winner. However, Montagliani is confident Herdman's long-term future is in Canada.
"There is nobody stopping teams from coming knocking on our door, but John is under contract with us and he is very happy," said Montagliani. "Canada affords John many more things than just a pocketbook, so I am very confident that he will be on the touchline with us at the 2015 World Cup."
A bronze medal was a big success for this team. Now full focus will be placed on building towards 2015 to ensure that Canada is able to perform well on home soil. When asked after the Olympic tournament if Canada's performance makes them a tier 1 team, Herdman said it's too early to tell. They will need to get results on a consistent basis against the best teams in the world if they are to be considered tier 1. However, there is now a firm foundation for the program.
"The technical staff have already put into place some plans for the next couple of years to ensure we peak in 2015," said Montagliani. "Our U20s are competing in the U20 World Cup later this month in Japan, so we will also get a good look at what new talent will be available to us for 2015."