Canada rode first half goals from Jonelle Filigno and Christine Sinclair to a 2-0 victory over Great Britain at Coventry Stadium that booked them an emotionally charged semifinal against the United States. It will be the first major semifinal for the Maple Leaf since the 2003 World Cup when they lost to Sweden (and then to the United States in the third place match).
Fighting a partisan crowd and a Great British team whose group stage was highlighted by a win over Brazil and three straight clean sheets, the Canadians were the better team on the day, scoring on a pair of set pieces and controlling enough of the play to keep Britain’s most dangerous attackers throttled.
The score first moved after less than a dozen minutes had been played when Sophie Schmidt sent a probing corner kick into the no-man’s land portion of the penalty box. Defender Sophie Bradley was the closest Brit to the service but she could do no better than a lunge. Instead Filigno got there first and scored by taking it just off the ground and knocking in a one-timed blast to the near post that left goalkeeper Karen Bardsley helpless.
The host side was slow to get into rhythm, finally getting a shot on goal in the 17th minute when Jill Scott tried to catch Erin McLeod napping with a shot from distance. The Canadian keeper though, was up to the task.
British right back Alex Scott created a golden chance in the 23rd minute when she dribbled out of traffic and unleashed a gorgeous cross that Karen Carney’s head made clean contact with but went just wide of target.
The crowd was still murmuring over the Carney chance when Canada won a free kick after Kim Little gave the ball away in her own third and then quickly fouled Desiree Scott. Standing just inside 25 feet Sinclair stepped into the free kick and found the lower right corner to give Canada the commanding lead.
The quality of play remained high throughout the second half, but Great Britain were unable to create the chance that would swing the momentum of the match in their favor. Meanwhile Canada, validating the first year of coach John Herdman’s tenure, maintained their discipline throughout.
Another moan went up from the crowd in the 81st minute when it Rhian Wilkinson clipped Eniola Aluko from behind in the top corner of the penalty area. Replays seemed to agree with the home fans that a penalty should have been awarded but there was no such fortune this day for the British women.
Sinclair nearly had in the 83rd minute using her speed to cut around an overstretched defense to get a shot off. This one went right to Karen Bardsley for the save.
That chance could have padded Sinclair’s gaudy scoring numbers, but the always team-oriented Sinclair will be just as happy to have two chances at an Olympic medal, beginning Monday at Old Trafford against the United States.
As for Team Great Britain, the United Kingdom’s one-off answer to the Olympic games will go without a medal, and the English National Team will be looking at an uphill climb to glory ahead of the 2014 Euros and 2015 World Cup.
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