Canada outlasts France to advance to Rio soccer semifinals
Women will play Germany in rematch of pool play
Canada's women's soccer team has advanced to the semifinals after a 1-0 victory over France.
Sophie Schmidt scored for Canada after an excellent cross from Janine Beckie in the 56th minute.
Sophie Schmidt gives <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CAN?src=hash">#CAN</a> a 1-0 lead in the 55th minute against <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FRA?src=hash">#FRA</a>. Beckie with the assist <a href="https://t.co/1rEInTl0nj">https://t.co/1rEInTl0nj</a>—@CBCOlympics
Canada will play Germany in a pool play rematch on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte. Sixth-ranked Sweden will play Brazil in the other semifinal in Rio. Both teams went to shootouts in their quarter-final matches.
Absolutely epic shootout between <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BRA?src=hash">#BRA</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AUS?src=hash">#AUS</a>, with the home nation surviving and advancing to the semifinals <a href="https://t.co/m8BTzIXYTv">https://t.co/m8BTzIXYTv</a>—@CBCOlympics
The 10th-ranked Canadian women are now one win from climbing the medal podium in back-to-back Games. They won bronze four years ago, defeating France by the same score.
The Canadians rushed off the bench to celebrate after the whistle blew on a tense final passage.
Canada is 4-0-0 in Brazil and has dispatched three top-10 teams in No. 2 Germany, No. 3 France and No. 5 Australia.
Sixth-ranked Sweden will play either Australia or Brazil in the other semifinal in Rio.
Tense match in São Paulo
On Friday, the Canadians held it together against a difficult opponent and then opportunistically took advantage of a rare scoring chance.
France had more of the play, but Canada went ahead in the 56th minute when Janine Beckie, showing great skill in controlling the ball, chipped a cross over to Schmidt, who acrobatically knocked it in from close range.
Two minutes later, there was a scare at the other end when Christine Sinclair's defensive header off a French free kick hit the Canadian crossbar. And it was Beckie to the rescue in the 71st minute when she headed the ball away from in front of an empty goal.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CAN?src=hash">#CAN</a> Sinclair almost scores own goal and gives <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FRA?src=hash">#FRA</a> a gift, but the crossbar saves her <a href="https://t.co/ad0CLo2f9n">https://t.co/ad0CLo2f9n</a>—@CBCOlympics
It wasn't pretty — head coach John Herdman said the team had conceded 22 free kicks — but Canada was study in determination and grit. Herdman, who retooled the team after a quarter-final exit at last summer's World Cup, says the chemistry between the team's veteran core and cadre of youngsters is special.
"They've formed something that you're seeing on the pitch," he said. "It's all right talking about stuff off the pitch — culture and everything — but it's only ever revealed in adversity. And this group has been revealing it, game after game.
"Game after game, they keep showing something that tells you that we might be able to do this."
Schmidt left in the 81st minute to applause as defender Rebecca Quinn was brought on to stiffen the Canadian defence.
Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé did her part as the French looked to find their big targets in the box.
Both teams had trouble building an attack in the early going. Canada lived dangerously by giving the ball away, allowing the skilled French to stroke the ball around, probing and pulling the Canadian defence.
Canadian captain Christine Sinclair said her team was thrilled at beating a French side that she believes may be the best in the world. Sinclair led by example before and after the whistle, reminding her teammates that the job was not done yet.
"We didn't come here to beat France in the quarter-finals and call it a tournament," said Sinclair, who has shown her class throughout the Olympics. "We came here to get on the top of the podium. So we've got two more games to go."
By The Canadian Press