Canada’s emotional roller-coaster ride through the Olympic women’s soccer tournament has ended on the podium.
Coming off a devastating, controversial 4-3 loss to the United States in the semifinals, the Canadians had to regroup for the bronze medal match against France on Thursday at Coventry.
They were thoroughly out-played for much of the game, particularly in the second half, when France generated chance after chance. But the French couldn’t find the back of the net – they were stymied by several fine saves from Team Canada keeper Erin McLeod, hit a post and a crossbar, and saw Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott clear the ball off the goal line on another occasion.
Then, in injury time, Canada struck against the run of play. Abbotsford midfielder Sophie Schmidt got the ball at the top of the box and unleashed a shot that hit a French defender. The ball deflected onto the foot of Diana Matheson (pictured below) with nothing but net in front of her, and she rolled it home. It was Canada’s first shot on goal of the game.
Just over a minute later it was over, and Canada had a 1-0 win and its first-ever Olympic soccer medal.
Canadian head coach John Herdman, in a post-game interview with CTV, called the dramatic finish “just ridiculous.”
“To be fair, we wobbled for long times,” he noted.
“France, all credit to them, they were outstanding. They were the better team for long periods. But you’ve got to put the ball in the back of the net, and we weren’t going to let them do that today.”
Brad Nicholl, general manager of Magnuson Ford Mariners FC (known as the Abbotsford Soccer Association during Schmidt’s tenure with the local club), noted that Schmidt’s Olympic medal gives up-and-coming soccer players something to aspire to.
“It’s great for Sophie, first and foremost,” Nicholl said. “She’s worked hard to get where she’s at, and we’re so pleased to be a part of it.
“It’s good for the game, and good for girls soccer.”