New coach brings passion, blue-chip resume to Canadian women's soccer team
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 5, 2009 6:46PM EST
TORONTO - Canada added some star power to its soccer lineup Thursday, naming Italian Carolina Morace as national women's coach.
"We aren't probably as aware of Carolina as the rest of the world is, but as far as a women's footballer, she's up there with the best of the last century and the most incredible players to have played the game," said former Canadian international Andrea Neil, who played against Morace and will now be part of her coaching staff.
"Now that's crossed over to the other side of the sideline where her coaching resume is sterling. For us to have her be a part of our program, to hopefully take it to the next level, is an incredible signing."
Morace, who turned 45 Thursday, has a blue-chip resume indeed. As a player, she scored 105 goals in 153 appearances for Italy and was named world female player of the year in 1995. Five years later, she was chosen one of the top four players of the century.
She took part in six European Championships as well as the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991, when she became the first woman to score a hat trick at the tournament.
In 1990, she scored four goals for Italy against England at Wembley. And she set an Italian club record when she bagged seven goals in Modena's 10-0 win over Calendasco in January 1997.
Morace coached the Italian women's team for six years and became the first woman to coach a men's pro team, when she took over Serie C side Viterbese in 1999. Morace, who made her home in Rome, has also worked as a colour commentator for the highest level of the men's game -- Serie A -- in Italy, as well as the men's World Cup in 1998 and European Championship in 2000.
"Carolina will now be the face for women's soccer in Canada," said Peter Montopoli, general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association. "She will represent over 370,000 female players."
That number -- the third highest participation rate in women's soccer -- was one of the reasons she was attracted to the job, Morace said.
Morace, who is also a qualified lawyer in Italy, saw that talent pool when she visited Canada several times to hold soccer camps.
"That challenge is really what drove me to come here because I truly think we can win a medal," she said through an interpreter.
Morace's first order of business is a camp for 26 players starting Saturday in Los Angeles. The roster includes captain Christine Sinclair, Erin McLeod, Melissa Tancredi, Martina Franko, Karina LeBlanc, Amy Walsh and Canadian under-20 player of the year Jonelle Filigno.
The team will reassemble in March ahead of the Cyprus Cup tournament.
The willowy Morace (pronounced mohr-AH-chee) promises to be a force of nature. Her introductory news conference at BMO Field was a mixture of cautious English and machine gun-like Italian, sometimes mashed together.
"The CSA wants to win and I agree," she said in English.
Morace succeeds Even Pellerud, inheriting a team that ranks 11th in the world -- one spot above Italy. The Norwegian native stepped down after leading Canada to the quarter-finals of the Beijing Olympics last summer, losing to the eventual champion Americans in extra time.
Pellerud arrived as a star in his own right, having led Norway to the World Cup title. He remade the program, developing a generation of talent while helping build a professional framework to allow them to flourish,
He has since taken a job as head of the women's program with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation.
"He really put Canada on the international map," said Neil.
A stoic Scandinavian, there was nevertheless a flinty side to Pellerud. He also had a dry sense of humour.
Emotions will run high with the passionate outspoken Morace, who upon being introduced said Canada should be higher in the world rankings than 11th. Her goal is to work hard -- "My philosophy is work. Work, work and work" -- have fun and above all win.
Morace quickly showed that she is not afraid of speaking her mind, saying one of the reasons she left Italy was that women's soccer is not held in high esteem there.
Asked what it was like coaching a men's team, she replied through an interpreter: "In my experience I found it a lot easier coaching men than women, because men just listen to me and do what they're told whereas women keep asking 'Why should I do it?'
"You gentleman must know women," she added dryly.
Unlike Pellerud, who made Vancouver home, Morace will be based out of Toronto. Montopoli said it was too early to say whether she will follow Pellerud's example in setting up a residency camp for the team.
Neil says Canada has shown it can consistently do well against teams ranked No. 8 and lower. The next quest is to be consistent against the top teams in the world -- and win medals.
"But in order to do that, you have to have results against everybody. So no longer just the one-off result will do the job. That will help in the rankings, but at the same time this team needs to contend to be a top-four team in the world."
Morace, who will also coach the under-20 team, will draw upon the help of longtime assistant Betty Bavagnoli.
"She know my methodology and she is very calm. And I am very nervous. We balance very well," said Morace.
Neil retired in December 2007 after 18 years with the Canadian national program.
"Andrea for us, is important," said Morace.
Morace made a point of posing with both assistants when the news conference ended and photographers rushed to take her photo.
Asked about her philosophy, Morace said a coach must know every system. "The characteristics of the players will determine the style of play," she said through an interpreter.
Morace coached Italy from 2000 to 2005, helping the team to runner-up finishes in the competitive European confederation in 2001 and 2005.
The CSA began its job search in October, drawing more than 50 candidates around the world. Montopoli said Morace was on his radar right from the get-go.
Montopoli believes Morace's prominence in women' soccer -- FIFA named her an ambassador to the sport -- can only help Canada's bid to host the 2015 women's World Cup.
NOTES -- Montopoli says the CSA has had talks with US Soccer about its bid for the 2018 or 2022 men's World Cup to see if there is room for one site north of the border ... The CSA boss says the association is still trying to make contact with Julian de Guzman about recent criticism of the men's program.