The Canadian women’s national soccer team pulled off a surprise against the United States, four-time Olympic champions. With a 1-0 victory that qualified Canada for their first-ever final, which they will play next Saturday against the winner of the Sweden-Australia match.
A penalty kick goal by Jessie Fleming in the 75th minute settled the match, played at the Ibaraki Stadium in Kashima, and put the Canadians in the fight for gold for the first time in their history.
The Americans, world champions and four-time Olympic champions, led by Megan Rapinoe, again showed the shortcomings revealed in previous matches and could not avoid defeat to stay out of the final for the second consecutive Games.
Canada, bronze medalists in London 2012 and Rio 2016, will face Sweden, who defeated Australia, in the final.
The Canadians lost in the London semifinal to the United States in overtime and in the Rio semifinal to eventual champion Germany. They thus gained revenge for that match at Manchester’s Old Trafford stadium.
The match began with Canada continuing to play a physical game as in previous matches, something that was reflected in the two infractions committed by Nichelle Prince and Ashley Lawrence before the first five minutes.
In the 9th minute, Julie Ertz had the first chance for Vlatko Andonovski’s team with a shot that went several meters from the Canadian net. For the Reds, Ahsley Lawrence responded with a deflected shot.
The United States’ goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who had starred in the quarter-final against the Netherlands, was unfortunate after half an hour. She had to leave the field of play due to injury after a play minutes earlier in which she cut out a cross, fell badly and hurt her right knee.
In the second half, the United States pushed forward and at times pinned Canada back in their box with crosses from both sides that were not very dangerous. Lindsey Horan came close in the 58th minute with a header that Stephanie Labbe controlled without any problems.
An hour into the match, the U.S. coaching staff decided to make three changes and sent on two of the team’s top players, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, accompanied by Christen Press.
Lloyd and Ertz came close to giving the Americans the lead, but goalkeeper Labbe of Sweden’s Rosengard denied them, and shortly after came the key action of the match, when Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul reviewed a play in which Nichelle Prince was brought down inside the box and decreed a penalty kick. Jessie Fleming slotted it inside Franch’s right post to make it 1-0 for the Canadians.
The United States tried desperately to avoid defeat. With 5 minutes to go, Carly Lloyd headed inside the box and the ball crashed against the horizontal in what was the clearest shot of the match for the four-time Olympic gold medal winners, who will not be able to aspire to a fifth title.
With this victory, the team coached by Bev Priestman took revenge for the semifinal of the London 2012 Games, in which the United States won 4-3 with a goal by Alex Morgan in the 123rd minute.