Christine Sinclair will play her final game of her legendary international career on December 5, 2023, two months after announcing her retirement. Sinclair is the all-time leading international goal scorer for men or women, with 190 goals throughout her 23-year international career.
Christine Sinclair started her career with the Canadian national team in 2000 and hasn’t missed a beat since then. The Canadian captain played in six World Cups and four Olympic games during this period. Sinclair first broke into the international scene during the inaugural FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup in 2002, where she scored a record-setting ten goals to help Canada to a second-place finish in the tournament. After a successful 2003 World Cup campaign, Sinclair solidified herself as one of the most important pieces in the Canadian squad.
In 2010, Sinclair became the first Canadian to hit the 100-goal mark, with a goal in a friendly against Poland. She was only the 10th woman at the time to hit that mark. That same year, Sinclair won her first major championship with Canada, as the team was victorious in the 2010 Concacaf Women’s Championship. This qualified the team for the 2011 World Cup, which proved to be utterly disappointing.
During the 2012 Olympics, Canada unexpectedly made it to the semifinals where they met a familiar foe, the United States. In an unforgettable match, Sinclair recorded a hat trick that somehow wasn’t enough, as the Americans put up four goals in controversial fashion.
The officiating came under question after that game and Sinclair was at the forefront of it: “It’s a shame in a game like that that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started.”
Despite that, Canada was able to bounce back and secure the bronze medal over France. Sinclair won the Golden Boot of the tournament, with six goals across six games at the tournament. This tournament was the beginning of Sinclair’s rise to stardom.
After the Olympics, Sinclair became recognized more both nationally and internationally. She was recognized multiple times in the months following the tournament, capturing awards including the Lou Marsh Trophy as the Canadian Athlete of the Year and the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award from the Canadian Press.
This only increased as the next World Cup in 2015 was played on her home turf. In the opening game of the group stage, Sinclair buried a 92nd-minute penalty kick to secure three points for Canada and their first win of the tournament over China.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” Sinclair said to The Spokesman-Review after the match, “Of course, it’s the opening game of the World Cup in front of 50-some-odd-thousand fans with the game on the line, yeah, it’s nerve-racking, but I live for those moments.”
That penalty would be the difference maker in Canada making it out of the group, as they went on to draw New Zealand and the Netherlands. Canada drew Switzerland in the Round of 16 and were successful in a 1-0 win, before eventually bowing out in the quarterfinals with a 2-1 loss to England.
Unfortunately for Sinclair, throughout her career, World Cups will continue to be Canada’s Achilles heel despite success in the Olympics. The 2016 Rio Olympics saw Sinclair pick up another bronze medal with Canada, as she scored the game-winning goal to defeat the hosts Brazil in the third-place match.
The 2019 World Cup is when the questions surrounding “when would Christine Sinclair retire” began, especially as she neared closer to Abby Wambach’s record of 184 international goals, and even more so as Canada yet again bowed out early in the 2019 World Cup.
It was the 2020 Olympic Qualifying game against St. Kitts and Nevis where Sinclair broke the international scoring record. On her 290th appearance with the Canadian national team, Sinclair scored two goals in the opening 23 minutes of the match. These two goals put the record at 185, which Sinclair has since extended to 190.
It feels fitting that Sinclair broke the record in qualifying for the 2020 Olympics as Canada went on to win the tournament. The win was Sinclair’s first major tournament win with Canada, something she waited so long for.
Unfortunately for Sinclair, her final major tournament was far from what she expected. The Canadians crashed out in the group stage of the 2023 Women’s World Cup after drawing with Nigeria, beating Ireland, and then losing 4-0 to the hosts, Australia. This was the last time the world saw Sinclair on the international stage.
Despite less playing time in her last few years, Sinclair was still there, helping and leading the team. She began to get more involved with off-the-field causes. These include the fight for a domestic league within Canada and a fight with the Canadian Soccer Federation over funding and compensation for the women’s side. Sinclair has been vocal about the lack of funding in Canadian women’s soccer, especially after Canada was knocked out of the World Cup by Australia.
"I think what you're seeing in women's football is teams are catching up, I think this for me is a wake-up call for back home,” Sinclair said to CBC News. “If the resources aren't there, we're going to fall behind, and I think if this isn't a warning sign, I don't know what is.”
The Canadians started their two-match series with Australia off with a bang, scoring five over the Matildas. Sinclair saw about 20 minutes in the second half of the game but the true send-off will be in the second game. BC Place is renaming itself Christine Sinclair Place for her final sendoff.
“I think our team has come to the conclusion that none of us are ready to see her go, but we’re enjoying the last couple days with her,” said Jayde Riviere, one of Sinclair’s National Team teammates, via Globe2Go. “She’s a legend. She’s the GOAT, as everyone says. And to us, she’s Sincy. She’s a lot more than what you see on the pitch. She’s a role model for us off the pitch so it’s going to be really hard to see her go.”
The second, and final game of Christine Sinclair’s illustrious international career will take place December 5, 2023, at 10 p.m. EST at BC Place in Vancouver.