If a month ago I was told that a CONCACAF team swept their group, won their quarterfinal match-up against France, and looked like they had a fire lit under them heading into the Olympic semifinal, I would have grinned in glee, thinking it was the United States.
Well, we all know how that turned out.
Their Road to the Semis
Canada got off to a blazing start, their first goal coming less than 60 seconds into their first match against Australia. Sinclair added a second goal in the 80th minute on a bizarre move from Australian goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who came nearly to midfield after the ball. Sinclair was able to get around her and get the ball into the back of the net. Beckie added two more goals in the next game against Zimbabwe, while Sinclair added another for herself. Against Germany, Melissa Tancredi added two goals to edge out Germany 2-1.
In the quarterfinals, Canada faced off against France. They had actually lost to France 0-1 in a friendly during their preparations for Rio. Though, to be fair, both sides used a modified starting XI in that game.
Who Got Them There
Pulling out a few names from the Canada 18 to highlight feels a bit like a disservice to the team as a whole. They have relied on everyone to get where they are.
Canada did what Jill Ellis was trying to do for the United States. They integrated a lot of young players successfully, kept a lot of great vets, and revamped their offense. Herdman started earlier than Ellis to give the team time to grow together.
But I think it’s fair to say that Canada wouldn’t be where they are if not for Stephanie Labbé, Sophie Schmidt, Melissa Tancredi, Janine Beckie, Sophie Schmidt, and Captain Canada, aka Christine Sinclair.
Sinclair, Schmidt, Beckie, and Tancredi have the only goals for the team so far, but the whole team is working together as well as we have seen them.
Road to Gold
If Canada wants a gold in Rio, they are going to have to get past Germany. While they did beat Germany in the group stage, there is no telling how the Germans will play.
They have players like Dzsenifer Marozsán and Alexandra Popp who can put the ball in the back of the next with amazing skill and in tight spaces. Almuth Schult might not be Nadine Angerer, but she can be a very solid goalkeeper.
Canada is taking a hit in their own 18. Josée Bélanger is suspended for the match, while Allysha Chapman has a hurt shoulder and is questionable for the match. This will handicap the Canadians some, but we’ll see just how much during the game.
And if they do get past Germany and make it to their first Olympic final?
Likely Brazil will be waiting for them. Not at all an easy team to beat in front of their home fans.