Home Canadian Soccer For Canadian women, the medals are bronze, but the effort was golden

For Canadian women, the medals are bronze, but the effort was golden

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Diana Matheson
Goalposts. Crossbars. Shots cleared off the line.

After a stalemate of a first half, the French dominated the Canadian national women’s team in the second-half of Thursday’s bronze-medal match.

But Canada got the goal — and a spot on the podium.

In stoppage time, after Canada survived French attack after French attack, Diana Matheson into an open goal after a rebound from a Sophie Schmidt shot fell to her feet. So close to the final whistle, it was a sucker punch from which the French — who had outscored Canada 6-0 over their previous two meetings — didn’t have time to recover.

Canada 1, France 0.

And, for long-suffering fans of the Canadian women’s program, they finally have a game to point to in which the breaks — and the luck — went the way of Big Red.

“To the young kids out there. I hope you have seen: never give up, just never give up.” Canadian coach John Herdman was quoted on the Canadian Soccer Association’s Twitter feed after the match.

“Football is cruel, France will walk away with nothing. I think everybody back home put a force-field in front of our goal.”

France, while not being as athletic as the Americans, play a much more tactically-savvy game. Canada’s semifinal against the U.S. was played at a breakneck pace; the Americans like to stream players forward — which gave Canada the option to launch successful counterattacks against a backline that was often left exposed. The Americans feel they can outscore anyone — so they simply push and push and push.

France offered a far more tactical approach. The French build their attacks with more lateral movement and possession. And, while the French don’t have a player as dynamic as an Alex Morgan or a Megan Rapinoe, they don’t dare opponents to counter them like the Americans do.

In a first-half that was played at half-speed, with neither team doing much in terms of putting pressure on the opposition goal, France’s Elodie Thomis had the only decent half-chance. Steaming down the right side, she had a look towards goal; but, being at an extreme angle, she didn’t have much to shot at when Canadian keeper McLeod wisely decided to com well off her goal line to cut down the angle.

But the French, sensing Canada’s tired legs after 123 minutes of soccer against the Americans, pushed forward in the second half, and the sustained pressure should have resulted in multiple goals. Key word: Should.

Thomis was dangerous down the right wing; she cut a ball back for Louisa Necib, whose deflected low shot forced McLeod into an excellent reflex save; the Canadian keeper, leaning to her right, had to reach back to her left to knock the ball away from goal.

In the 61st minute, Thomis — easily France’s most dangerous player on the afternoon — cut the ball back for Gaetane Thiney, who smashed a low shot off the post. A minute later, Thomis got behind the Canadian defence and lofted a shot over McLeod that kissed the bar.

Then, off a corner that Canada struggled to defend, midfielder Desiree Scott cleared a shot by Corine Franco off the line. By the 70th minute, a 3-0 France scoreline would not have been unfair.

But, somehow France couldn’t find the back of the net. And, finally, when Canada got its one decent chance, it converted.

The Canadian women will come home with bronze medals. After the collapse of WPS, many now have to look for work. But, in the eyes of Canadian soccer fans, this was a golden effort. Herdman has worked miracles with this team in less than a year. Imagine what he could do with three years of prep time before the Women’s World Cup?

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