Sinclair seeking World Cup title to cap illustrious career
In Christine Sinclair’s packed trophy case, there is a glaring omission.
A World Cup title.
Sinclair’s list of individual accolades in women’s soccer is long. The current all-time leader (men and women) in international goals with 190, she is a 14-time Canadian Player of the Year winner, the 2012 Lou Marsh Award winner and Canadian Player of the Decade (2010-19). She has also received the Order of British Columbia, Officer of the Order of Canada and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
While Sinclair has enjoyed team success at the college (two NCAA titles with the University of Portland) and club levels (three titles with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns), it hasn’t always been that way at the international level.
In 2012, Canada broke through at the London Olympics, winning their first-ever medal with a bronze. While a dominant hat trick performance from Sinclair against the United States in the semifinal ultimately wasn’t enough to send Canada to the Olympic final that year, it was a turning point for the program.
Four years later in Rio, Canada would walk away with Olympic bronze for the second time, as Sinclair’s goal in the bronze medal game against Brazil held up as the winner.
While Canada would win the 2011 Pan American Games and 2016 Algarve Cup during the 2010s, a major championship continued to elude the team. For Canada, relying on Sinclair has long been the go-to recipe for having any kind of success on the field. At the 2020 Olympics, that was no longer the case.
In Tokyo, the next generation of players emerged for Canada to help handle the heavy lifting. Jessie Fleming stole the spotlight with her penalty kicks, including the infamous one against the United States in the semifinal when Sinclair handed off the ball to Fleming at the line to take the shot in the 72nd minute, one that found its way past USWNT goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.
In the final against Sweden that went to a penalty shootout for gold, Sinclair was on the bench as the rest of the team stepped up, including Fleming and Deanne Rose before 21-year-old Julia Grosso netted the winner to deliver Canada its first-ever gold medal in women’s soccer.
Now ranked seventh in the world and holding the title as reigning Olympic gold medalists, the focus turns to the Women’s World Cup that kicks off on July 20 as Canada comes in with different expectations. Sinclair will be playing in her sixth World Cup, a tournament Canada has struggled to have success at as fourth place in 2003 remains their best-ever finish.
At the World Cup in 2019, Canada was knocked out in the round of 16 with a 1-0 loss to Sweden. Sinclair’s lone goal of the tournament came in a 2-1 group stage loss to the Netherlands as Canada struggled to generate offence in France.
While the 40-year-old Sinclair isn’t expected to play the full 90 minutes on the pitch every game or carry the proverbial load by herself like in the past, she will still be heavily relied upon for offence and on a team full of leaders, she remains the one teammates rally behind.
“In my mind, she's in the best form of her career,” Canada head coach Bev Priestman told TSN in April. “At this moment, she seems fitter, hungrier than I've seen her since I've been here. And so, if all continues, she stays healthy and is as hungry as what I feel now, I'm really excited of what she does at this World Cup.”
Since the Olympics, Sinclair helped Portland win its third NWSL title in franchise history in 2022. This season, she has three goals in 12 matches as the Thorns look to repeat as champions.
Off the field, Sinclair has been one of the main players in the fight against Canada Soccer as the women’s team fights for equitable pay and treatment from the federation.