Football, like other team disciplines, is a sport in which players find strength through unity. All players and coaches agree that if a recipe for success truly does exist, then team spirit is the main ingredient. Judging by the excellent atmosphere prevalent in the Canadian squad during the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016, it has been one of the key factors in their exciting run to the semi-finals of the prestigious competition.
And if there is a symbol of this unity and solidarity, it is the duo of Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan, who spoke with FIFA.com in the run-up to the Canucks’ crucial clash with Germany.
In fact, the two talented 20-year-olds have played alongside one another for over a decade. When they were nine, they started out together in the same club, in Brampton, and have rubbed shoulders on the pitch ever since. They were at Toronto Lady Lynx at the same time in 2013, at Ottawa Fury between 2014 and 2015, and they both signed for Vaughan Azzurri in June 2016.
Now it is in the red and white of Canada that they run out on to the field together, focused on the common goal of winning an Olympic medal for their country. “I’ve always felt privileged to play with ‘Ash’,” said Buchanan. “We know each other so well. We’ve been through it all together: the highs, the lows, the battles. It’s brilliant to be able to experience the Olympic Games together.”
Lawrence was quick to echo those remarks: “It’s amazing to be able to share this adventure. Kadeisha is my best friend. We’ve played together for a long time; she’s like a sister to me. She makes me laugh a lot, she’s a really good listener, and she’s always there for you in good times and bad. And on top of all that, she’s a world-class player!”
Named Best Young Player at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, Buchanan has continued to showcase her defensive skills at Rio 2016, helping her team to keep the number of goals conceded down to just two. “She’s incredible; she’s so consistent at the highest level,” continued Lawrence. “No matter which forward she comes up against, she’ll never let you down.”
Lawrence has also had a very strong tournament so far. “I’m satisfied with how I’ve performed. I’ve been playing at full-back, which is a new position for me,” said the modest Toronto native, a midfielder by trade. “I’ve just been trying to do my best, and to help out going forward as well as at the back. I’m happy with how things are going.”
Buchanan is well-placed to gauge her compatriot’s performances. “Her ball work and ability to harass her opposite number are her greatest assets, offensively and defensively,” explained the defender. “She’s also a very disciplined person, who is very focused about achieving her objectives.”
While the pair’s individual qualities have been clear for all to see in Brazil, Canada’s general team displays have been equally eye-catching. These have included a resolute 2-0 win over Australia – despite the North Americans having been reduced to ten players in the 19th minute following the dismissal of Shelina Zadorsky – and victories over Germany, who had previously recorded 12 consecutive triumphs against the Canucks, and a France side sitting third in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
“All of those wins were big moments, but the one against the Australians said a lot about the mental qualities of our team: even when we’re down a player, we never give up. There were only ten of us, but it felt like 12. We know how to fight for a result, no matter who we’re playing,” said Lawrence.
She continued: “Overall, we’ve had a fantastic tournament. We’ve won our four matches and our defensive performances speak for themselves. We’re very disciplined. As far as our attack is concerned, we have a variety of options – our eight goals have been scored by quite a few different players.
“Being able to count on those different options is definitely a plus point. We have a bit of everything in this team – young players who offer a fresh approach, and veterans who bring experience. We’re interchangeable, and we complement each other. The way we move the ball around the pitch is proof of that.”
It goes without saying that this synergy during games extends to Buchanan and Lawrence, who are almost able to find each other with their eyes closed. “Of course, we know each other well, and each of us knows exactly how the other one plays,” said Lawrence.
“All those years we’ve spent together creates a certain level of understanding, and I think that’s even more evident now that I’m playing at the back. I think the bond we have on and off the pitch is a real bonus for the team, and that’s the most important thing."