Mon, November 18, 2013

Melissa Tancredi carries Canada to Olympic women's soccer draw

Thunder and Lightning strike for Team Canada

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency



Women's soccer: Canada ties Sweden
 

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE - The Canadian women's soccer team is certainly a foul-weather side. They generally get a positive result whenever their two star forwards, Thunder and Lightning, Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi, strike.

Fortunately, there have been plenty of thunder and lightning strikes for Canada at these Olympic Games, with Sinclair and Tancredi carrying the team, at least on the scoreboard. And as a result, Canada has moved on to the quarter-finals.

Tancredi, a native of Ancaster, Ont., scored two goals to give the Canadians a dramatic, come-from-behind, 2-2 draw with Sweden, the fourth-ranked team in the world, on a cool and breezy Tuesday afternoon at St. James' Park. Canada is ranked seventh.

But it wasn't just Tancredi who came up big against the Swedes (Canada's quarter-final opponent will be determined when all the first round games are completed Tuesday night). The entire starting 11 played exceptionally well and refused to yield to the big, aggressive Swedes -- and to some questionable refereeing -- putting a smile on the face of head coach John Herdman, a Geordie who grew up cheering for Newcastle United on the very pitch his side played on Tuesday.

"That's all we talked about," said Tancredi, with a laugh, when asked if they discussed their coach's link to Newcastle. "Our pre-game meeting, he had the black and white on everything. But that's what we needed though. He was like, 'You're not going to lose on this pitch, I promise you that.' And we didn't."

The Canadians ran on to the field partially sporting the black and white colours of Newcastle in the warmup and instantly endeared themselves to the fans, a great many who were waving the Maple Leaf. They dominated the first part of the opening half, though the Swedes scored two goals in the first 16 minutes. But at no point, said Herdman, did he think his team was out.

"Seeing the team down 2-0 is not too dissimilar to watching Newcastle some days, and then seeing the Geordie spirit come back," said the coach.

"It's just a honour to be anywhere near that football field," he added. "I said to (midfielder Diana) Matheson, there's been some great midfielders grace this pitch, Paul Gascoigne Chris Waddle ... and she played like that today," he added. "And Desiree Scott, the Destroyer, she did what she does. I think Newcastle will be looking to sign her up after that game."

"Just some top class performance from key players," he added.

The Canadians out-chanced the Swedes by a wide margin in the first 12 minutes, including a wonderful cross from Sinclair to Tancredi, who just missed.

Sweden went ahead on a corner on a goal by Marie Hammarstrom and then 2-0 when Hammarstrom delivered a lovely cross to Sofia Jakobsson, who nailed if after Canadian keeper Erin McLeod miss-timed her interception of the pass. At that point in the half, the frustration for the Canadian side began to overflow. Twice Sinclair complained to match referee Eun Ah Hong of Korea and even Herdman got into the action. Later in the game, the ref missed at least two hand balls.

But then late in the first half, defender Rhian Wilkinson started a great run, passing to Sinclair at midfield, who fed it back, and then crossed the ball Tancredi who scored at the 43rd minute, giving Canada new life. In the 84th minute, Burnaby, B.C. native Sinclair, who has two goals in the tournament, delivered a nice feed to Tancredi, who headed it home. The Tank now has four goals in this tournament.

"We did what we had to do. We're through," said Tancredi. "What a game. I didn't expect to go down 2-0 so early, (but) we've done something we haven't been able to do in years and that's comeback against a tier one team, and I think that's really special for us."

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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