Historic bronze medal Canada
LONDON, England ● Canada scored a dramatic injury-time winner to defeat France and claim bronze in the women’s Olympic football tournament with a 1-0 victory.
Diana Matheson scored in added time Thursday to give the Canadian women’s soccer their first ever soccer medal.
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.”
It was harsh for France that had dominated the game. Canada were completely outplayed and Corine Franco missed two late chances for the French.
But the Canucks claimed their first medal in Olympic football when Diana Matheson slotted home from 12 yards.
It was very harsh on the French, who were participating in women’s football at the Games for the first time.
They missed a penalty in their 2-1 defeat by Japan in their semi-final and in Coventry on Thursday afternoon they were made to pay once again for failing to take their opportunities.
Canada were perhaps still tired and mentally drained after their dramatic extra-time defeat by the United States at Old Trafford on Monday.
And after a cagey first half, Bruno Bini’s French team took control after the restart, crafting three excellent chances in as many minutes.
Erin McLeod dived brilliantly low to her left to stop Louisa Necib’s deflected strike, Thiney could not quite finish a flowing move when her strike hit the foot of the post and Thomis was equally unfortunate when she guided the ball beyond the keeper but saw it hit the crossbar.
It was all one-way traffic and with 20 minutes of normal time left it took an excellent goal-line stop from midfielder Scott to clear Franco’s shot off the line.
Franco and substitute Eugenie Le Sommer missed further chances for France before midfielder Matheson struck after Sophie Schmidt’s shot had been blocked.
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.
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.
Members of the Canadian women’s team, including coach John Herdman were livid with Pedersen on Monday.
“She’ll have to sleep in bed tonight after watching the replays, she’s got that to live with,” Herdman said. “We’ll move on from this, I wonder if she’ll be able to.”
Herdman 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 remarks.
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 will now travel about 100 miles southeast to Wembley Stadium to pick up the bronze after the gold-medal match between Japan and the U.S.
The bronze medal victory is a boost for Canada as it prepares to host the Women’s World Cup in 2015.