Canada wins historic Olympic soccer bronze
Diana Matheson scored in added time Thursday to give the Canadian women's soccer team a dramatic 1-0 victory in the Olympic bronze medal match against France.
In the second minute of added time in Coventry, Matheson passed inside the penalty area to midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who turned, dribbled and took a shot. The ball deflected off defender Sonia Bompastor and landed at the feet of Matheson, who volleyed in the game-winner past goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
"It feels amazing," Matheson said. "We felt as a group that we were going to earn this and we did, in the last minute."
The bronze is Canada's first Summer Games medal in a traditional team sport since the 1936 Berlin Games, when the men's basketball team won silver.
"You can’t be great unless you achieve great things and that medal is a great thing," said coach John Herdman. "We know that we’ve inspired some youngsters and we hope that a whole stream of talented players."
After a timid first half, France overran Canada in the second, hitting the post and crossbar, among numerous other chances. But they couldn't break through against the Canadians, who appeared to have heavy legs after losing 4-3 in extra time to the United States in the semifinals Monday.
Canadian captain Christine Sinclair's hat trick against the Americans was among her six goals in the tournament, but she did little to threaten France's goal and was forced to defend late in the game.
Canada was denied a spot in the gold medal game when the United States pulled through with a controversial victory in the semis. A late penalty kick from Abby Wambach sent the Americans to extra time where a header by teammate Alex Morgan was the difference in the 123rd minute.
The Wambach penalty resulted after the Americans were awarded a free kick outside the Canadian box by Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen. Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was whistled for holding the ball for more than six seconds. Marie-Eve Nault was charged with a handball in the penalty area on the ensuing kick.
Herdman and his players avoided punishment from FIFA after the international governing body said it would wait until after the Olympics to decide on potential discipline against Team Canada for their public remarks about the ref.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated the team on their historic win.
He called the women a "great team" and "true Olympians" and noted they overcame adversity to earn their spot on the podium.
Harper said the efforts of Sinclair and the rest of the team "can only be described as heroic."
Canada travelled about 100 miles southeast to Wembley Stadium to pick up the bronze after the gold-medal match between Japan and the U.S., which the Americans won 2-1 to capture their third straight Olympic gold.
The bronze medal victory is a boost for Canada as it prepares to host the Women's World Cup in 2015.
With files from CBCSports.ca