Canada stunned the World Cup-winning United States on Monday, handing it a shock 1-0 defeat in the semifinal of the women’s Olympic football tournament with Jessie Fleming grabbing the winner with a 75th minute penalty.
In the gold medal match, Canada will face the winner of the other semifinal between Australia and Sweden which is being played later on Monday.
The crucial moment, in a game which had produced little incident, came when Tierna Davidson challenged Deanne Rose on the edge of the penalty area. After a video review, a spot-kick was awarded.
Canada’s veteran striker Christian Sinclair initially had the ball in her hands, but Fleming took the responsibility and kept her cool to slot home.
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The US, pre-Games favourite for gold medal, went close to an equaliser when Carli Lloyd struck the bar with a header but Canada held on for a famous victory – and its first-ever appearance in the Olympic final.
The Americans have won the Olympic women’s football tournament four times and have not been beaten by Canada for over 20 years. It is only the fourth time Canada has beaten its neighbour in 62 meetings.
“It has been a long time coming to beat those guys,” said Fleming. “We want to come away with gold now but it is really special for us to put our flag on the map,” she added.
The game was a dull affair until the triple substitution saw Megan Rapinoe, Lloyd and Christen Press brought on — a change which infused new life to the American attack.
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The first effort on goal finally arrived in the 65th minute with a curling shot from Lloyd which was tipped over by Stephanie Labbe, and moments later the Canada keeper did well to keep out a glancing header from Julie Ertz.
But just as the Americans were piling on the pressure, a Canada break led to the penalty award and the end of the road for Vlatko Andonovski’s side.
“It’s terrible. Obviously, not our best game. Not our best tournament,” said Rapinoe. “We didn’t have it today. Too many errors for us. The space was there for us to play in, we just couldn’t get into it.”
“I feel like we haven’t had our joy a little bit. Hasn’t flowed for us. Hasn’t been easy. We have tried to find it. It is not for a lack of effort. It didn’t click for us,” she claimed.