MONTPELLIER, France — At 181 and counting, Christine Sinclair has goals aplenty to choose from when it comes to favourites.
But there seem to be several top choices among her body of work as the Canadian captain chases retired American Abby Wambach’s world record of 184.
While several current and former teammates choose her inspirational hat trick in the 4-3 semifinal loss to the U.S. in the 2012 Olympic semifinal, there is strong support for a Dec. 19, 2010, cracker of a goal in a game against host Brazil in the final of an international tournament (Canada won the event on overall goal difference).
The 2010 goal starts with a takeaway deep in the Canadian end. After winning the ball, the Canadian defender hammers it upfield where Melissa Tancredi beats a Brazilian and finds Sinclair plowing a lone furrow up front.
Sinclair heads towards the corner and then sends the ball back to Tancredi steaming towards the penalty box. Tancredi does a 360 as a defender approaches and the ball comes back to Sinclair, positioned a yard or so off the corner of the penalty box.
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Sinclair then loads up her weaker left foot and bends the ball high from distance off the far goalpost into the net past a diving goalkeeper. There are six Brazilians inside the box including the goalkeeper. But none can do anything in the face of Sinclair’s brilliance.
“An absolute bomb with her left foot from the top of the 18, having kind of unbalanced the defender, took a touch inside and wrapped it around (what) felt like the entire defensive unit,” said Carmelina Moscato, who won 94 caps for Canada and is now serving as an TV analyst for the 2019 World Cup.
“It was something where you’re just like ‘Wow, could she actually fulfil that with both feet?’ I think what makes a goal-scorer is the variety of finishes, the variety of tools and expertise and finishing or power — all that stuff that we look at, the subtleties and nuances. And that was something I had never seen from here before. It just made me feel like she was limitless.”
“Such a world-class goal on her left foot. I’ll never forget that one,” said former teammate Rhian Wilkinson, who won 166 caps for Canada before turning to coaching.
“I think if there was better video footage of that one, that one would be unbeatable,” said midfielder Diana Matheson, who is at 203 caps and counting.
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The hat trick against the U.S. earns points for inspiration as well as finishing.
The first goal was classic Sinclair with assists from Marie-Eve Nault and Tancredi. A fine pass from Nault to Tancredi slices open the defence. Tancredi then flicks the ball to Sinclair, who is racing towards goal.
Sinclair controls the ball with her left foot then takes an extra touch to get round a defender and cooly slots the ball home with her right foot.
The second goal comes from a fine cross from Tancredi, who leaves an American defender standing before sending the ball into the box. Sinclair gets separation from her marker and heads it into the corner past American goalkeeper Hope Solo.
The third comes off a Sophie Schmidt corner, with Sinclair rising high to beat her marker again before heading the ball nigh into the corner over a defender positioned at the post.
Sinclair would likely enjoy the fact that the goals were the result of fine work from teammates.
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Midfielder Jessie Fleming and Wilkinson also single out the decisive goal in Canada’s 2-1 win over host Brazil in the bronze-medal game at the 2016 Olympics.
Fleming and Deanne Rose play huge parts in laying the groundwork for the goal, with Fleming pilfering the ball off a Brazilian and showing some on-the-ball trickery before sending it to Rose, who squares the ball to an onrushing Sinclair into the penalty box.
The ball actually bounces high off Sinclair’s left foot and hits her torso before, as it comes down, she lashes out her right foot for the goal.
“Just her calm under pressure and what it did to silence the crowd was something I’d never really experienced,” said Fleming. “And yeah obviously it gave us a huge momentum shift in that game.”
Wilkinson also cites Sinclair’s composure on the goal.
“It’s always her. It’s always her that gets the goal that we need to win the cup or win the game,” she added.
Fleming also points to Sinclair’s exploits in a 3-1 win over Costa Rica in a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament match Feb. 19, 2016, in Houston.
Sinclair scored twice and both were beauties. The first follows a poor clearance in the box with the ball bouncing to Sinclair, who chests it down before volleying it into the goal.
The second is even better. The ball actually bounces backwards past Sinclair in the Costa Rica penalty box. Sinclair pivots and, with her back to the goal, pops the ball into the air with her right foot. She then keeps turning and loops the ball into the goal.
“Impressive, just because of the skill involved,” said Fleming, a gifted technician in her own right.
As for Sinclair, she is not one to blow her own horn when it comes to goals. But she remembers her first senior goal for Canada.
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It was March 14, 2000, against Norway at the Algarve Cup. A 16-year-old Sinclair, playing in her second game for Canada, opened her account in the eighth minute.
“Bente Nordby was the goalkeeper at the time. She was one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Even (Pellerud) was Canada’s coach, he had just finished coaching Norway. Intercepted a pass and it was a breakaway. I put it far post.
“You never forget the first one, right?”
The next one could come Monday when fifth-ranked Canada opens its World Cup campaign against No. 46 Cameroon in Montpellier, France. Sinclair turns 36 two days later.
Christine Sinclair by the numbers
- Sinclair has scored 181 goals in 282 international games. Abby Wambach’s world record is 184 goals.
- Sinclair is embarking on her fifth FIFA World Cup, tying the Canadian record held by retired goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.
- When the World Cup squads were officially announced May 27, Sinclair’s 282 caps surpassed the cumulative total of all 23 Jamaica players.
- Sinclair, who turns 36 on June 12, is the seventh oldest player at the FIFA World Cup (at 41 that honour belongs to Brazil’s Formiga)
- Sinclair has scored nine goals at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, second only to Brazil’s Marta (15) among active players at France 2019.
© 2019 The Canadian Press