Josee Belanger scored early in the second half to send Canada into the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Switzerland on Sunday in Vancouver.
The win was Canada's first ever over a European side at the soccer showcase, ending an 0-9-1 run. And the Canadian women rose to the occasion after an uneven group stage, taking it to the 19th-ranked Swiss in the second half. The Canadian bench rushed the field as the final whistle blew to celebrate the win as the despondent Swiss gathered at their bench. The two teams then shook hands.
"In the second half we played like the Canada I know," said goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
Eighth-ranked Canada plays either No. 6 England or No. 11 Norway in Saturday's quarter-final back at B.C. Place Stadium. The two European teams face off Monday in Ottawa.
It's just the second time in six trips to the tournament that Canada has made it to the knockout rounds. The Canadians finished fourth in 2003.
"We knew it was going to be tight against Switzerland. That's a good team," said Canada coach John Herdman.
"Proud of my girls," he added.
Belanger, who played fullback in Canada's first three games, was restored to forward with the return of Rhian Wilkinson to the starting lineup after a hamstring injury. And the two combined on the goal, with an assist from captain Christine Sinclair.
After an even first 45 minutes, Canada came out flying in the second half and Belanger put Canada ahead in the 52nd minute. Wilkinson sent in a cross that Sinclair got a boot to in the penalty box. The ball went straight to Belanger, who whipped a left-footed shot into the corner.
Canada continued to go at the Swiss and 'keeper Gaelle Thalmann was exposed several times trying to corral crosses. Captain Caroline Abbe was forced to make a goal-line clearance of a Belanger shot in the 68th, just after Sinclair just missed getting her head on a Melissa Tancredi cross.
McLeod, as she has done all tournament, made a key save in the 77th minute to deny Vanessa Bernauer from in close.
The Swiss came forward in the dying minutes but could not break down the Canadian defence.
"Canada had the momentum and they scored the goal so congratulation to Canada," said Swiss coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, through an interpreter.
The Canadian women arrived with a 3-0-1 all-time record against the 19th-ranked Swiss, winning 2-0 at the 2013 Cyprus Cup the last time they met. That meeting was played before just 50 fans. In contrast, Sunday's game drew 53,855 to B.C. Place, a record for a Canadian national team home game.
That record was set June 6 when 53,058 took in Canada's tournament opener against China in Edmonton.
Canada, which went 1-0-2 in the group stage, improved its all-time tournament record to 6-11-5. The Swiss go home having made it to the knockout rounds in their first visit to the tournament.
It was an even contest in the first half, although there were dangers signs for Canada as the Swiss made inroads deep into the Canadian defence.