Abbotsford’s Sophie Schmidt came in for high praise from coach John Herdman Friday after scoring a highlight-reel goal to lead Canada’s women’s soccer team to victory over England in a pre-World Cup friendly in Hamilton, Ont.
With the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup set to kick off this weekend, Herdman told a post-match news conference that “This could be the tournament [Schmidt] becomes the best midfielder in the world.”
It was high praise for Schmidt, but at 26 and already with more than 100 national team appearances on her resume, the Abbotsford native is a key figure for Canada, who play their first game Saturday at 3 p.m. in Edmonton against China.
Schmidt’s goal Friday against England – who are ranked eighth in the world, two spots ahead of Canada – was a moment of brilliance that saw the midfielder curl a volley from outside the 18-yard-box into the top corner of the net on her first-touch.
— Sophie Schmidt (@sophieschmidt13) May 30, 2015
The Abbotsford product was a force throughout the game for Canada, and afterwards, Herdman said the game reminded him of a game against the United States in which Schmidt had “dominated” the midfield of the world’s second-ranked team.
“She’s really got the goods to step up at this World Cup,” Herdman said. “She’s the right age. She’s put a hell of a shift in back in Vancouver, lifting weights, getting faster.”
Speaking to The News Monday, Schmidt said the praise from her coach is nice to hear, but not intimidating.
“It’s exciting to know that he believes that I can be that player,” she said. Being among the world’s best midfielders has become a goal to work toward, she said. And she knows her progress will be key to Canada’s efforts this summer.
To get to that top level, Schmidt has focused on getting faster, stronger and more powerful. But she’s also sought to refine her technical abilities and her skill at finishing with the ball, as evidenced by the goal she scored against England.
Still, three days after her “wondergoal,” she still sounded a little surprised at how perfect her shot turned out.
“I have been working on it. I don’t think it’s ever come off like that,” she said, laughing.
After months of preperation and hype, Schmidt said she and her teammates are excited to finally be days away from the Women’s World Cup.
But as excited as the players will be, Schmidt says her parents may be just as ready for kickoff.
“For them, it’s finally here too. It’s their World Cup as parents and I think they’re really looking forward to it, even though it’s stressful.”
Although their group stage games will take place in Edmonton and Montreal, if the Canadians win their pool, they would play their first knockout game in Vancouver, on June 21.