Fri, September 20, 2013

Canadian women one win away from soccer final

Will face Americans after dumping host Brits 2-0

By BOB MACKIN, Special to QMI Agency


Britain's Anita Asante (centre) is double teamed by Canada's Lauren Sesselmann (left) and Carmelina Moscato during their quarterfinal match at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Aug. 3, 2012. (ALESSANDRO GAROFALO/Reuters)



COVENTRY, ENGLAND - Canada will play in the Olympic women’s soccer semifinal for the first time after eliminating host Great Britain 2-0 in a Friday Olympic women’s soccer quarterfinal.

It will be no easy task for Canada’s Christine Sinclair-captained side at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. Monday’s opponent will be the reigning Olympic champion United States. Canada has beaten its southern nemesis only four times since their rivalry began in 1986.

“We’re going in as underdogs and I think everyone understands that and I think underdogs rise up in these tournaments and you’ve seen it time-and-time again,” said Canada’s coach John Herdman. “Expect the girls to rise up, they’re in a great space to take on the world number one.”

Jonelle Filigno of Mississauga, Ont. and Burnaby, B.C.’s Sinclair had the first half goals Friday and goalkeeper Erin McLeod the shutout at Ricoh Arena, where Canada lost to Japan but beat South Africa in the opening round.

Filigno successfully converted a corner kick by Abbotsford, B.C.’s Sophie Schmidt in the 12th minute when the ball eluded defender Sophie Bradley. Filigno right-footed the shot into the upper right corner, beyond goalkeeper Karen Bardsley.

Desiree Scott of Winnipeg drew a free kick from 25 yards after she was pulled down by Britain’s Kim Little in the 25th minute. Sinclair arced the ball into the net on the free kick for the insurance marker, her 140th in international play.

Britain’s best chances included a 17th minute shot by Jill Scott on an Alex Scott pass that forced McLeod to dive. Karen Carney’s 23rd minute header went wide.

Canada tightened its defence in the second half and tried clogging the middle. Great Britain became desperate in the final 15 minutes and was unlucky to score. Referee Sachiko Yamagishi of Japan earned the wrath of the partisan crowd when she did not award the home team a penalty kick in the 80th minute for Baie d’Urfe, Que. defender Rhian Wilkinson’s tackle on Eniola Aluko in the penalty area.

“The ball wasn’t in sight and I was brought down,” Aluko said. “I don’t know why the referee didn’t give it.”

“Some days those go your way, some days they don’t,” Wilkinson said. “I’m glad (she) didn’t call it. They really had us on the back foot.”

Britain was riding the momentum of its 1-0 Tuesday upset of Brazil before 70,000 fans at Wembley after an earlier win and tie.

“I don’t think we started as well as we could,” said Great Britain coach Hope Powell. “Canada got an early goal and they played well. At times they put us on the back foot. I think we got better but unfortunately couldn’t find the net. There was the penalty, what could have been but wasn’t.”

Herdman’s squad is aiming to become the first Canadian team to win a summer Olympics medal since a men’s basketball silver at Berlin 1936. Canada is playing in its second Olympic tournament. In 2008, it lost a storm-interrupted quarterfinal at Shanghai to the U.S. 2-1 in extra time. The most recent championship meeting with the U.S. was in Vancouver on Jan. 29, Canada lost the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament final 4-0.

“We’ll be prepared as possible and we owe them one,” Sinclair said. “We’re a confident team right now, just enjoying the ride.”

U.S. advanced to the semifinal with a 2-0 win over New Zealand in Newcastle. France and reigning World Cup champion Japan will meet Monday in the other semifinal at Wembley Stadium in London. France edged Sweden 2-1 in Glasgow and Japan shutout Brazil 2-0 at Cardiff in Friday’s other quarterfinals.