Canada Advance To Semis

Canada 0-0 Brazil

After Extra Time, Canada win 4-3 penalties

Above: Canada celebrate their win over Brazil on penalties which sets up yet another Olympic semi-final. Photo: Getty Images.

By Catherine Paquette

The Canada-Brazil match was a clash of Olympic giants.  Canada entered the match as back-to-back Olympic bronze medalists, participating in their fourth consecutive Games.  Head coach Bev Priestman has not shied away from stating that Canada’s goal this Olympics is to change the colour of their medal.

Brazil has participated in every Olympic women’s football tournament. They have won silver twice, in 2004 and 2008, were eliminated at the quarter final phase at London 2021 and finished fourth three times.  The most recent fourth place finish was arguably the most difficult, when they lost the bronze medal to Canada at their home Rio Olympic Games.  

This next Olympic meeting therefore had added significance for the two teams.  It also had added significance because both sides had legends who may have played in what was going to be their last Olympic match. 

I do not use this word legend lightly. For Canada their captain Christine Sinclair is the all time leader for international goals scored for men or women and one of only four international players of either sex with more than 300 international appearances.  

For Brazil, Formiga is currently the oldest female football Olympian and has participated in every Olympic competition since the sport expanded on the women’s side in 1996.  There are ten players from both squads of this match that were born after Formiga became an Olympian for the first time.

At 38 years of age for Sinclair and 43 years of age for Formiga, there was a chance that the end of this quarter-final would be the final time either of these players as an Olympian.  Despite their respective ages, both players were in their respective nation’s starting line-ups.  

The Canadians for their part lined up in a 4-3-1-2, a formation used with success against Chile. Several players that had been rested or started on the bench against Team GB returned to the starting lineup, notably Allysha Chapman, Desire Scott, Jessie Fleming and Sinclair. Vanessa Gilles, who had started the last game in place of Shelina Zadorsky was chosen to continue her centre-back pairing with Kadeisha Buchanan.  

The Brazilians for their part stayed with a 4-4-2.  They also had several changes, with Debinha, Andressinha, Duda, Tamires, Bruna and Erica returning to the starting line-ups. Like every match this tournament, Formiga started in midfield.

The game started with a scare in the first ten minutes.  As Sinclair was coming down from a header attempt, her head collided with the knee of Buchanan.  After several minutes of medical attention she was deemed OK to continue the match.  The early possible loss of Canada’s captain did not faze either side.  

Both teams took shots on goal, most missing the mark.  The first real chance for Canada came in the 21st minute when a good pass from Ashley Lawrence into the box trying to find Sinclair deflected off her chest towards goal and was saved by Brazil’s Bárbara.

A VAR review occurred at the 35th minute to determine if Canada’s Chapman had caused a foul in the box.  The review decided she had not.  Five minutes later Debinha stole a ball Gilles was trying to clear out of the Canadian defence and she took a shot on goal.  Stephanie Labbé made the save for Canada.  

The second half also saw several goal attempts from both sides.  Brazil’s Andressinha had a shot saved by Labbé in the 55th minute that then nearly spilled into Canada’s goal. Canada had a good chance on goal four minutes later when Gilles’ header hit Brazil’s goalpost. A few other shots occurred but the score line remained 0-0 and the teams headed to extra time. 

The additional 30 minutes of play did not change this score line.  Brazil did come close in the final minutes of extra-time, when they mounted multiple attacks on the Canadian goal.  Labbé did her job well and kept the clean sheet. She then seemed to be injured in the final minute of extra-time, when she made a nasty landing after defending a ball in the air.  

After several minutes of medical attention she got back up.  Shortly after, both teams headed to penalty kicks.  This is where the real drama started.

Above: Stephanie Labbé’s penalty saves catapulted Canada into the semi-finals yet again. Photo: @stephlabbe1

Canada were first to kick, with Sinclair being the first kicker. To every Canadian fans’ shock, her shot was saved by Bárbara.  Brazil and Canada then put in their next three kicks.  At 3-3 with Brazil taking their fourth kick, Labbé came to Canada’s rescue and saved Andressa’s attempt.  Canada’s Gilles then put in a fourth for Canada.  

Labbé then sent the Canadians to the semi-finals for the third Olympics in a row when she saved Rafaelle’s penalty kick.  The Canadians won it 3-4 on penalty kicks. 

Overall though Canada has continued its underperformance offensively.  While Canadian players took as many shots this match as their Brazilian counterparts this, only one was on frame.  Brazil by comparison had four.  In total Canada have had seven shots on target this tournament. 

Part of the reason for the lack of Canadian offence  in this match is that Brazil did well to contain Canada’s offence.  A startling example of this is the fact that Sinclair only got 16 touches on the ball in the first half.  

Another, more serious reason is the Canadians themselves.  Their defence has been relatively strong this tournament.  The centre-backs and defensive midfielder Desiree Scott are quite effective this game at getting the ball out from the defence and passing it to move the ball forward. 

Above: Joyous scenes among the Canadian squad. Photo: @stephlabbe1

The Canadians movement forward has been attempted both through the middle of the park and out wide.  Lawrence has been particularly effective and threatening this tournament when bringing the ball forward out wide and giving service inside the box.  She has been Canada’s best player for most of the tournament, showing all the defensive and offensive skills on prizes in a modern day fullback.  

Like Lawrence, certain players have had moments where they have shone, Beckie, Prince and Rose in the group stage, but none of those moments came simultaneously.  None of the Canadian midfield and forwards have clicked together at the same time. Canada over all throughout the tournament has struggled creating chances in the final third. The more the ball has progressed up the field the less effective they have been.  

In this match passes often were short into the final third, requiring players to slow down to retrieve them and thus cutting Canadian momentum.  There were times that players, specifically Beckie and Fleming, made similar runs into the box thus minimizing their offensive potential.  Moreover, the Canadian offence was often very compact making it easier to defend them.  

Canada does have the capability of scoring.  In the run up for this tournament their scoring was not dependent on one player, which is arguably a good thing.  As they enter the final next match though they will need to find more synergy up front and to finish their chances.  If not they could be going back to the Bronze medal match.

Teams: CANADA: Labbé, Chapman, Buchanan, Lawrence, Gilles, Quinn, Scott, Sinclair, Fleming, Prince, Beckie. Subs used: Rose, Grosso, Riviere, Leon.

Scorers (Penalty Shoot Out): Sinclair (missed), Fleming (scored), Lawrence (scored), Leon (scored), Gilles (scored).

BRAZIL: Bárbara, Érika, Rafaelle, Tamires, Bruna, Duda, Formiga, Marta, Andressinha, Debina, Beatriz. Subs used: Angelina, Ludmila, Andressa.

Scorers: (Penalty Shoot Out): Marta (scored), Debinha (scored), Érika (scored), Andressa (missed), Rafaelle (missed).

Referee: Stéphanie Frappart (FRA)

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