Canada is back in soccer’s medal round at the Olympics, and this time the team wants more.
The Canadian women surprisingly reached the podium four years ago at the London Games, beating France 1-0 for the bronze medal. The Canadians again knocked off the higher-ranked French in the quarterfinals in Brazil, earning a semifinal match against Germany on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte.
Canada, ranked No. 10 in the world, has had a brilliant run in Brazil with wins in all four of its matches — three of which came against top-five teams.
“I’m super proud of every single player. We have this never-say-die attitude and defensively we’re not going to give up much, teams are going to have to work to break us down,” Canada captain Christine Sinclair said following the victory over France in Sao Paulo.
If Canada gets by No. 2 Germany for the second time in Brazil, the women will get a shot against either Sweden or Brazil in gold medal match in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
With the victory over No. 3 France, the Canadians became the only team from London to return to the semifinals. The three-time defending champion United States was ousted by Sweden in the quarterfinals, Canada eliminated France, and Japan (silver) didn’t qualify for the tournament.
The Canadians are no doubt also seeking some redemption after the disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to the United States in the London semifinals.
Sinclair scored all three of Canada’s goals, but Abby Wambach nailed a penalty kick shortly after a questionable call — the Canadian goalkeeper was flagged with the rarely used call for time wasting — sending the match into extra time. Alex Morgan scored the game-winner.
Afterward, Sinclair commented on the officiating, eventually drawing a four-match suspension from international play.
Now 33, Sinclair has played well in Brazil with a pair of goals to move her into a tie with Brazil forward Marta for third on the career Olympic goal list with 10. Brazil’s Cristiane has the most with 14.
Also having a good tournament is Janine Beckie, who has three goals. Veteran Sophie Schmidt scored the only goal in the quarterfinal victory over France.
The Canadians will face a German team that very well could be looking for revenge after falling 2-1 to Canada in group play. Mellissa Tancredi scored both goals for Canada.
But the Germans nonetheless earned a spot in the semifinals with a 1-0 victory over China on Friday in Salvador. Melanie Behringer scored the only goal for the reigning European champions.
Canada’s return to the semifinals also gives U.S. fans something to cheer for after the Americans lost on penalties to Sweden. It was the earliest U.S. exit ever in a major international tournament.
Many of the Canadians also play in the National Women’s Soccer League, or played college soccer in the United States. Sinclair, considered one of the best players in the world, won a pair of NCAA championships with the University of Portland and now plays for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. Beckie plays for the Houston Dash and goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe plays for the Washington Spirit.
Nichelle Prince is a senior at Ohio State, while Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan play at West Virginia. Jessie Fleming is an incoming freshman at UCLA.
“I’m proud on what we’re showing,” Canada coach John Herdman said. “We’re on the medal rounds. We’re here, but we’re not done yet.”