The US have advanced to the Women’s Olympic Football finals after a hard-fought semifinal game against Canada at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester. They were able to prevent a penalty shootout after making it 4-3 when scoring 3 minutes into stoppage time following the end of extra time. Click here to see the highlights.
Canada wanted to have an early lead because they knew a US goal would eventually come. On the 22nd minute, Sinclair was the one to give them that first lead. As Tancredi received the ball, she found her teammate inside the box and knocked it to her. She dribbled the ball forward, eluded multiple defenders, and put it away in the bottom-left corner past Hope Solo. Canada’s lead almost doubled just minutes later, but a save was made following Schmidt’s header. The US had a chance a bit later in the 1st half, when a cross was made to Wambach that ended in a strong but off-target header. Neither team had many astonishing chances, but the 3 time Olympic champions were still left trailing at 1-0 at by the end of the first half.
The second half proved to be much more dynamic than the first, with a total of 5 goals scored. On the 53rd minute, the US was able to equalize the score at 1-1 after what was probably the goal of the tournament. Rapinoe caused a lot of confusion among the Canadians when she bent her corner kick past the defenders and into left-hand side of the goal. It would have been very hard for Canada to stop that ball for getting in the net since the spin was very unpredictable. Their brief tie was broken by the Canadians about 15 minutes later, when Sinclair and Tancredi were able to set up yet another goal. Tancredi once again crossed to Siniclair, who scored a header into the bottom-left corner, just skimming the post. This goal was the first of a series of multiple goals that occurred within 12 minutes. After providing cross after cross for the US, Rapinoe decided to take a chance and shoot from fairly far away. The shot hit the left post and rebounded straight into the goal, equalizing the score at 2-2. Canada’s fire did not die though, and they were able lead for the third and final time just 2 minutes later. Sinclair received the corner and beat Solo with yet another header; this was her third goal of the match. Just 10 minutes before full time, the referee caught a hand ball in Canada’s penalty box after a free kick for the US, resulting in a penalty shot. Wambach, who scored in every game in the tournament so far, successfully converted the penalty. Wambach had a good chance to finish it off in the end, but her shot was just wide, so the second half ended with the scores level at 3-3.
During extra time, not many shots were fired at the net. The few shots that were on target did not result in a goal. In the 118th minute, another shot was made from Wambach, this time a header, which bounced off the crossbar. As the game entered its final minute of stoppage time, it seemed as though it would have to be decided by a penalty shootout. Just 30 seconds before extra time came to an end, Morgan was able to head the ball right over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The sound of people chanting USA, USA filled up the stadium, and the game ended with a score of 4-3.
This game was definitely one of the strangest and craziest games that have ever been played in soccer. There was a 20-yard goal, a hat trick, and an Olimpico. Also, the winning team was trailing 3 times during the game, and the final, match-deciding goal was scored in the 123rd minute. Despite all of that, the referee, Christina Pedersen, made calls that would have only made sense at a U-13 level. She guessed nearly all of her calls, denied the US of multiple penalty kicks, and held off on giving Canada a yellow card even though they committed many fouls. She also made the six-second call (a goalkeeper can’t hold the ball for more than 6 seconds), which no professional referee ever pays attention to.
The semifinal game between Japan and France took place a few hours before this one. The game ended in a 2-1 win for Japan, with goals from Ogimi and Sakaguchi of Japan, and Le Sommer of France. The US will take on Japan in the Women’s Olympic Football final on August 9th at 19:45 London time.