In one of the biggest soccer games ever played on Canadian soil (or turf), Abbotsford’s Sophie Schmidt and her teammates on Canada’s National Women’s Team downed Switzerland 1-0 Sunday at BC Place to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
A record crowd of 53,855 fans had to hold their breath for nearly 52 minutes before Josee Belanger scored to give Canada a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Belanger’s goal – a cool finish off of a neat pass by Christine Sinclair – released a burst of nervous energy among the massive crowd, but several Swiss attacks had the Canadian fans holding their collective breaths.
But keeper Erin McLeod – who was named the game’s best player – came up big when it counted and made a key save in the 77th minute on a close-range Swiss shot to preserve the lead.
Despite picking up a hip injury late in Canada’s final group stage, Schmidt played the full 90 minutes. She was one of several players who needed a pain-killing injection before taking the field.
“These girls are warriors. We’ll tape her up and put them out there,” Canada coach John Herdman said.
Schmidt, who is a key cog in Canada’s midfield and takes all the team’s set pieces, didn’t look out of place, making several key tackles and passes. In the game’s final moments, it was Schmidt who spent much of the time with the ball, eating up the clock as Switzerland tried to find an equalizer.
“At the times when we needed Sophie, she stepped up,” Herdman said. In the days leading up to the game, Schmidt wasn’t always sure she would be able to play, she said after the game. The pain eased a little heading into the weekend, but that doesn’t mean her hip felt good
“It was painful, but once the game got going, it was out of mind.”
Clutching a small bouqet of flowers in the media area outside of the players’ dressing room, Schmidt was all smiles after the game.
“It’s Father’s Day,” she said, noting that her whole family was in the crowd.
The atmosphere, she said, “gave me goosebumps.”
Canada now moves on to the quarterfinals and will play England, who beat Norway Monday. That game takes place Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in BC Place.
The Canadians beat the English 1-0 in a warm-up match before the start of the World Cup.