Canadian soccer team advances to knockout round with draw vs. Great Britain
Adriana Leon scores to help propel Canada into final 8 showdown against Brazil
Canada advanced to the knockout phase of the women's Olympic soccer tournament after drawing 1-1 with Great Britain on Tuesday in Kashima, Japan.
For 84 minutes, Canada — looking to capture its third consecutive Olympic medal — nearly pulled out the win.
However, Caroline Weir's 85th minute strike for Great Britain cancelled out Adriana Leon's early second-half effort, once again raising questions about Canada's defence.
WATCH | Canada advances to knockout round after drawing Great Britain:
After also surrendering a late equalizer in its tournament opener against Japan, and narrowly edging Chile in its second game, Canada has now failed to keep a clean sheet in its last three matches.
One big change heading into the game against Great Britain was the absence of Christine Sinclair.
Head coach Bev Priestman had elected to rest Canada's iconic captain, while rotating seven other members of the squad, including handing the first start for longtime-midfield stalwart Sophie Schmidt.
In Sinclair's absence, defender Kadeisha Buchanan strapped on the captain's armband, while keeper Stephanie Labbé got the start, after suffering a rib injury in the tournament opener.
The match featured a lacklustre opening 45 minutes. Despite plenty of tenacious defending, the early highlights were mostly marked by poor finishing from both sides.
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The play began to flow more in the second. Especially after Ashley Lawrence, who was lively all game, broke loose down the left flank.
With no one in front, the Canadian defender charged deep into Britain's half, carrying the ball well into the 18-yard box before cutting it back.
Evading the best efforts of the scrambling defenders, the ball managed to find an unmarked Leon, whose clinical finish, in the 55th minute, gave Canada the 1-0 lead.
The goal was Leon's first of the tournament. Her arms instantly shooting into the air, elation on her face as she began to celebrate with teammates.
The joy spread all the way into the stands, where Sinclair and the rest of Canada's reserves could be seen dancing.
Danger, however, was lurking for the Canadian defence, with Weir a constant thorn. The midfielder first set off alarm bells in the 68th minute. Her run into Canada's box, nearly rewarded after bringing the ball under control with a deftly touch to evade her marker before firing a left-footed strike that beat the outstretched arm of Labbé – but not the crossbar.
Undeterred, the British kept up the pressure. The defensive cracks slowly formed for Canada even after a flurry of substitutions - switching Quinn for Julia Grosso, Evelyne Viens for Nichelle Prince and Lawrence for Gabrielle Carle – in a bid to maintain fresh legs.
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And yet, when the equalizer finally came, it appeared out of nothing. Weir's long-distance strike deflecting off of Prince, and wrong footing Labbé.
"Overall [I'm] happy, it's just a shame that we let it get away from us and that happened as well earlier [against Japan] in the group stage," Priestman said. "But overall I think we're really comfortable with where we're at.
"We rested some legs and we're ready to go."
Canada will now face familiar foe Brazil in the quarter-finals.
With files from The Canadian Press