Road To The Olympic Games

Women's soccer team falls to U.S. in extra time

Substitute Natasha Kai scored in the 11th minute of the first extra-time period to give the United States a 2-1 win and eliminate Canada in their quarter-final women's soccer match at the Beijing Games.

Loss eliminates Canada in quarter-finals

The Canadian women's soccer team was slowed by injuries and the weather on Friday, but it was its archrival that stopped the team's quest for a medal at the Beijing Games.

Substitute Natasha Kai scored in the 11th minute of the first extra-time period to give the U.S. a 2-1 win and eliminate Canada in their quarter-final women's soccer match at Shanghai Stadium.

Kai slipped behind the Canadian defence and headed a long crossing attempt from Shannon Boxx past Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc to break the deadlock.

The American celebrated by shaking her finger in the air and wagging her hips, a crude but understandable celebration for a goal that should have come a lot sooner.

The United States dictated play throughout the match, but couldn't break through against substitute LeBlanc until extra time.

LeBlanc entered the game in the 19th minute after starter Erin McLeod slipped and was injured on the play that resulted in the first American goal from Angela Hucles.

LeBlanc, a native of Maple Ridge, B.C., made several crucial stops to keep the score tied. They included a point-blank save on Hucles in the 71st minute and a sprawling one-handed stop on a low shot with seconds to play in regulation.

"I don't think we gave up," LeBlanc told the CBC after the loss. "I feel like right now I still haven't given up. I feel like I'd still go back out there because it's a lifelong dream to be here.

"You dream of going the whole way to represent ourselves and our country. It's so disappointing right now. I'm proud of the girls, I'm proud of everything, but it's tough."

Canadian captain Christine Sinclair scored the 95th goal of her international career in the 30th minute to level the score at 1-1.

"You hate to lose any game," said Sinclair. "But to lose the quarter-finals in the Olympics... it's a little hard to accept right now."

Program blossoms under Pellerud

It was a memorable ride to the quarter-finals for the Canadians, and in some ways marks the end of an era for the women's soccer program.

Head coach Even Pellerud has announced that he will step down after the Beijing Games, and if Friday was his final game, he has plenty to look back on.

"It has been a wonderful nine years for me, my family and the program," he said. "There has been development of the team and the program in Canada.

"I hoped my team would finish with a good performance and a win in my last game. We seemed to run out of gas early in the second half. We kept fighting and we created a war but we couldn't play the good performances we have played before. They worked hard as they can. I have no problem with the results."

Pellerud took over the Canadian women's program in 1999 after leading his native Norway to the 1995 women's World Cup championship and a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics.

Canada finished a strong fourth at the 2003 World Cup, its first under his leadership, and there was confidence the team would move on to better things.

Leading up to the Olympic tournament, Pellerud also led the Canadians to two of its better results against the top-ranked Americans.

At the 2008 Peace Queen Cup in late June, the Americans defeated their cross-border rivals on a free kick in injury time, and in April, at the CONCACAF Olympic qualification tournament in Mexico, the U.S. needed penalty kicks to take the crown.

The team would rise to ninth in the FIFA world rankings and made its Olympic debut in Beijing, advancing to the knockout portion of the tournament.

"It's been amazing," said LeBlanc. "We came in. We played great in the tournament. We had high hopes. And to face the U.S., we definitely felt that this could have been our turn."

But in the end, the Americans earned yet another win over Canada — their 37th in 44 matches.

Lightning causes long delay

Hucles opened the scoring in the 12th minute to give the Americans an early 1-0 lead before rain and the threat of lightning cleared the pitch for over 90 minutes.

A cross from Amy Rodriguez was headed on target by Heather O'Reilly and partially deflected by McLeod but right onto the foot of Hucles, who converted the easy tap-in for the goal.

McLeod also appeared to slip and injure herself on the play, and was forced to leave the match in the 19th minute.

"It was an emotional thing," said LeBlanc. "Erin and I are best friends on the team and I never wanted to see her hurt.

"At the same time, I was like 'what can I do to help?'"

Just minutes later, game officials elected to send the players off the field due to lightning concerns in the area of Shanghai Stadium.

When play resumed, Sinclair tied the match in the 30th minute with a potent blast from 22 metres out area that sailed past U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo and into the top right side of the net.

The teams went scoreless the rest of the way in regulation, although Hucles had at least three other great chances near the Canadian net.

Brazil 2, Norway 1

In other quarter-final women's soccer action, it was Brazil advancing to the semis with a 2-1 win over Norway in Tianjin.

Daniela uncorked a long strike from 35 metres out to stake the Brazilians to a 1-0 lead just before halftime.

Norway was aggressively pursuing an equalizer to start the second half and Brazil's Marta capitalized on it in the 57th minute.

Marta picked off a back pass intended for Nowegian goalkeeper Erika Skarbo and chipped it into the net to put Brazil up 2-0.

That goal proved crucial as Norway's Elise Thorsnes earned a penalty kick after she was fouled by Brazilian goalkeeper Barbara in the penalty area.

Substitute Siri Nordby stepped up and netted Norway's first goal, but it was as close as the team would get the rest of the way.

Japan 2, China 0

Japan crushed the hopes of the host nation in their quarter-final match, handing China a 2-0 loss in Qinhuangdao.

Japan was aggressive from the kick-off and it paid off with an early goal in the 15th minute as Sawa Homare scored on a header from a corner kick.

Nagasato Yuki doubled the advantage in the 80th minute for Japan, which will move on to face the United States in a semifinal match on Monday.

Germany 2, Sweden 0

Germany was forced to extra time against Sweden, but scored twice in 30 minutes to move on in Shenyang.

Kerstin Garefrekes and Simone Laudehr scored goals in the 105th and 115th minutes, respectively, for Germany, which faces Brazil in Monday's other semifinal.

With files from the Canadian Press