Canada stunned the World Cup-winning United States on Monday, handing them a shock 1-0 defeat in the semi-finals of the women’s Olympic football tournament with Jessie Fleming grabbing the winner with a 75th-minute penalty.
In the gold medal match, Canada will face Sweden, which defeated Australia later on Monday. The US will play the Australians for bronze.
The crucial moment in a game that had produced little incident came when US defender Tierna Davidson challenged Deanne Rose on the edge of the penalty area. After a video review, the controversial penalty was awarded.
Canada’s veteran striker Christine Sinclair initially had the ball in her hands, but Fleming took the responsibility and kept her cool to slot it home.
The USWNT, pre-Games favorites for the gold medal, went close to an equalizer when Carli Lloyd struck the bar with a header but Canada held on for a famous victory – and their first-ever appearance in the Olympic final.
The Americans have won the Olympic women’s football tournament four times and have not been beaten by Canada for over 20 years. It is only the fourth time Canada has beaten their neighbors in 62 meetings.
“It has been a long time coming to beat those guys,” Fleming said. “We want to come away with gold now but it is really special for us to put our flag on the map.”
The game was a dull affair until a triple substitution saw Megan Rapinoe, Lloyd, and Christen Press brought on — a change that brought new life to the American attack.
The first effort on goal finally arrived in the 65th minute with a curling shot from Lloyd which was tipped over by Stephanie Labbe, and moments later the Canada keeper did well to keep out a glancing header from Julie Ertz.
But just as the Americans were piling on the pressure, a Canada break led to the penalty award and the end of the road for Vlatko Andonovski’s side.
“It’s terrible. Obviously, not our best game. Not our best tournament,” Rapinoe said. “We didn’t have it today. Too many errors for us. The space was there for us to play in, we just couldn’t get into it.
“I feel like we haven’t had our joy a little bit. Hasn’t flowed for us. Hasn’t been easy. We have tried to find it. It is not for a lack of effort. It didn’t click for us.”