There were three heroes for Canada in their 1-0 win over France to earn the bronze medal today: Diana Matheson, the scorer of the 92nd minute winner; Desiree Scott, who had a crucial line clearance; and the woodwork behind goalkeeper Erin McLeod. France finds itself in fourth place yet again, a surprising finish for a team so many predicted to be in the gold medal match later today.
The entire first half of the game was uneventful at best. Both sides failed to find a rhythm, and France unable to put anything on frame against McLeod. Canada had a few chances early, but failed to make either of them dangerous. It wasn’t until the 49th minute that things finally started to heat up in Coventry, with McLeod forced to make a reaction save on a Louisa Necib shot that was redirected right in front of goal by the foot of a Canadian defender.
As the first hour of the game passed, France coach Bruno Bini pulled forward Marie-Laure Delie and replaced her with Eugénie Le Sommer. The impact on the game was immediate. Le Sommer was involved in four dangerous plays from the French offense right in a row. France’s game finally clicked into place, with Thomis, Thiney, Necib and Le Sommer all able to put plays together and use the endline to their advantage. Canada had no answer beyond the helpful presence of the posts, but despite the second half surge, France was denied a go-ahead goal.
The most notable near miss for France was in the 71st minute, with Corine Franco’s attempt getting past McLeod but cleared off the line by Desiree Scott. Scott was one of the most essential players for Canada this tournament, and was as instrumental in this win as Diana Matheson.
The chances didn’t end there, either, with Franco getting two more good looks in the 78th minute from close range but unable to put either of them on frame. Le Sommer also had a chance late in the game in the 88th minute, but missing just wide of the frame with her header.
In the 90th minute, Camille Abily challenged her former FC Gold Pride teammate Christine Sinclair and was shown a yellow by referee Jenny Palmqvist. Two minutes of stoppage time were added. The game looked to be heading for extra time, which would have been a death knell to an already exhausted Canadian side. France certainly had its own share of heavy legs in the bronze medal match as well, but Canada was resting their collective hopes on a quick goal in transition that would let them steal this game out from under the dominant French.
The run of passes in the first minute of stoppage time didn’t seem like much at first, considering the number of French players collapsing on the play. Christine Sinclair sent a pass to Sophie Schmidt, who did not have a clear shot at goal. Schmidt sent the ball to Diana Matheson, who was attempting to spark a play from a central position. Matheson sent it right back to Schmidt, who attempted a shot on goal. The ball bounced off Sonia Bompastor as Sarah Bouhaddi came out to challenge the shot, and the rebound fell neatly at the feet of Diana Matheson, who calmly put it into the back of a wide open net. The Canadian celebration was instantaneous, as Matheson raised her arms in joy and then kissed the maple leaf on her jersey before she was swamped by her teammates.
Canada’s win not only gives them redemption for their early exit in last year’s World Cup, but it is their first medal in the Olympic tournament and Canada’s first medal in a team sport since 1936. Canada proved that their current ranking does not reflect their actual level of play in this tournament.
While the judgment of FIFA still looms over them for their reaction to their semifinal loss against the United States, John Herdman should be pleased with his team’s performance in these Olympics. The team will now travel to London to receive their medals after the conclusion of the final between the US and Japan, which kicks off at 2:45 p.m. Eastern this afternoon.
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