Canadian women's soccer team delivers thrilling Olympic gold-medal victory over Sweden

A relentless Olympic run by the Canadian women's soccer team has finished with a thrilling gold-medal victory. After back-to-back bronze medals at the last two Games, Canada defeated Sweden 3-2 on penalty kicks in a thrilling finish to win the gold medal in Tokyo.

Canada ends relentless run with win on penalty kicks

Players on the Canadian women's soccer team pose with their gold medals following a memorable Olympic soccer victory over Sweden Friday in Japan. (Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images)

Canadian captain Christine Sinclair let out a celebratory scream that could be heard throughout Yokohama Stadium when teammate Julia Grosso delivered the game-winning dagger in Friday's gold-medal match.

Sweden was devastated. Victory ripped away for a second-straight Games.

Canada won 3-2 in a thrilling penalty-kick battle to become Olympic champions for the first time in women's soccer. 

After Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé denied Jonna Andersson's attempt, Grosso scored the winner to end it.

The team went wild, charging Grosso and piling on top of her — dancing, yelling and soaking up the moment. 

An explosion of ecstasy blasted through Sinclair, the greatest international goal-scorer ever. It was a golden Olympic moment for the Canadian captain that was 21 years, 304 games and 187 goals in the making.

Captain Christine Sinclair, right, and teammate Julia Grosso share a golden moment after Grosso's goal gave Canada a 3-2 win over Sweden on penalty kicks. (Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Bright-eyed in disbelief over the moment, Sinclair ran around the pitch congratulating her teammates.

"What a ride. I can't even describe it," she told CBC Sports.

"This team came here with a goal of changing the colour of the medal and we landed on top of the podium. There's not a group of individuals I would rather do it with. This is the best team I've ever been a part of."

It's only the fourth time in Canada's history at the Summer Games that a team has won gold — the first two times happened in 1904 at the St. Louis Olympics when the men's soccer and lacrosse teams won. The men's lacrosse team defended its gold medal and won in London in 1908.

And it marks the first time a Canadian women's team has stood on top of the podium at the Summer Games. 

WATCH | Canada stuns Sweden to capture gold: 

Party went on and on

The party on the pitch went on and on. The Canadians were soaking up their Olympic moment of glory. When it finally came time to step onto the podium, the 22 Canadian women grabbed each other's hands and threw their arms in the air together.

Labbé, who made a number of heroic saves including during the tense penalty kicks, tried to describe the moment. 

"I'm a bit speechless. The exhaustion is there. But every time I look down at this medal, it's incredible," she said. "To be able to do it with my best friends, the people who I've spent some of my hardest moments with, is unbelievable."

Despite seeming so calm in the most pressure-packed moments, Labbé admits battling nerves leading into the gold-medal match.

"I'll be honest, the last couple days have been really … I've struggled in terms of anxiety. Being overwhelmed. But my mental strength came in. When I step on the pitch, that's my comfort zone."

WATCH | Julia Grosso on scoring the gold-medal winner: 

Canada down early

After falling behind 1-0 and being outplayed for much of the first half, the Canadians mounted their comeback.

Coming out of halftime the red and white looked much more composed and confident, taking the play to the Swedes at times.

Then, in the 67th minute Christine Sinclair was taken down in the penalty box. She was in disbelief that there wasn't a call.

But in a similar scene to what happened in their game against the United States, Canada was awarded a penalty kick after video review.

And just like she did against the Americans, Jessie Fleming delivered again, calmly striking the ball into the net to tie it. 

Defender Ashley Lawrence, left, and midfielder Jessie Fleming joke around as they show off their medals. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Canada took down the No. 1 ranked Americans and then beat the No. 5-ranked Swedes on its golden quest. 

"Just a lot of pride. Really excited to get to celebrate with my best friends. It still hasn't hit me quite yet," said Fleming, who was asked to deliver again in the decisive penalty kicks and made no mistake for a third time in two games. 

"I wasn't expecting to have to take two. I just kept going through my process. Stay calm and trust myself. And breathe in the moment."

Sweden took the play to Canada in the first half and seemed on its way to victory. The Swedes hadn't lost in 17-consecutive games and were the better team going into halftime.

Then in the penalty kicks they also had an attempt to score and secure gold, but were stopped by Labbé.

"The first half we didn't play well at all and Sweden completely dominated us. They're a world-class team," Sinclair said. "But this team will never die and this team will never quit." 

Grosso is swarmed by teammates after scoring the decisive penalty kick in the shootout at the end of the Olympic soccer final in Tokyo. (Fernando Vergara/The Associated Press)

Priestman leads Canada to gold

Bev Priestman, 35, became the first coach from England since 1948 to lead a country to Olympic gold. 

"Unbelievable. I feel very, very privileged to be part of this moment in Canadian history. The players put everything in. People have worked for 20 year for this," said Priestman, who was named head coach of the women's national program in late-October 2020.

Priestman was assistant coach alongside John Herdman when the team won bronze in 2016. 

Both coaches, remarkably, come from the town of Consett in England. It was Herdman who encouraged Priestman to coach. 

Now she's led the team to gold. 

"It will be remembered forever and it can change the face of Canadian soccer," she said.

"It's in their heart. That's the biggest thing. They will do absolutely anything to make each other proud and their country proud. They did that. They went right to wire. Right to the wire. Never say die."

WATCH | Bev Priestman on the impact of Canada's victory: 

Quinn makes history

Quinn, a 25-year-old midfielder from Toronto, became the first openly transgender and non-binary athlete to win an Olympic medal.

"It's incredible. This is a lifetime dream. This team is amazing. They're my second family," they said. 

"We've been through so much together. I have no words to describe how much they mean to me. They just allow me to be myself and I know everyone feels that same"

Quinn came out publicly as transgender in a social media post last fall, changed their pronouns to they/them and now goes by one name.

"What I want to do is make sure kids keep playing sports. For me that was so important," Quinn said. 

"Soccer is such a joy in my life and I hope that people see they can be themselves and continue to play sports and there's a place for them."

Now that the team has changed the colour of the medal, Sinclair hopes their victory will change the game in Canada forever.

"It's the best we can do. It's the most we can do as a national team. Three podiums in a row. We've inspired a lot of kids."


Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

With files from The Canadian Press

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