It is an exciting time for football over in the States, the USMNT beating rivals Mexico in the Gold Cup final last night as well as the ever dominant USWNT of course being World Cup champions. The latter came into these Olympic Games as a strong favourite but they showed weaknesses we aren’t used to in the group stage. The USWNT have grown into the tournament and are still so, so good though.
Starting with the team for the USWNT and Abby Dahlkemper who played for Man City in the WSL last season makes way in the heart of defence for Tierna Davidson. Lynn Williams keeps her place out-wide whilst Alex Morgan joins her up there, replacing the legendary Carli Lloyd. The third and final change to the team that beat the Netherlands is Rose Lavelle unsurprisingly comes back into the side at the expense of her close friend Sam Mewis.
On the other hand, Bev Priestman has chosen the same Canada XI that caused a bit of an upset against Brazil in the last round. International top scorer Christine Sinclair of course features with WSL duo, Janine Beckie (Man City) and Jessie Fleming (Chelsea) remaining alongside her in that attacking third. Stephanie Labbe deserves a mention, the goalkeeper for Canada plays her club football in Sweden and she has had a very good tournament.
Neither side with any early, clear-cut chances. Tobin Heath and Rose Lavelle have been trying to force the initiative for the USWNT who were the favourites in this one, but nothing coming of this yet. Defensive frailties have been fairly prevalent in the tournament so far though so how comfortable they’ve been at the back is definitely a step in the right direction.
Vlatko Andonovski forced into a first half change, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher struggling and unable to continue. Adrianna Franch of the Portland Thorns is her replacement- Naeher’s leg went from underneath her as she tried to claim a high ball, not nice at all.
Half time thoughts: Canada went to penalties against Brazil and the same goes for the USWNT in their clash with the Netherlands and that is maybe evident. It was a quick turnaround and 120 minutes of football followed by a shootout is never easy. The US advanced with Megan Rapinoe scoring the decisive penalty after Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema, the tournament’s top-scorer saw her effort saved by Naeher. Meanwhile, Sinclair was the only one to miss for Canada funnily enough and she was reduced to tears when all was said and done.
The second half started with a higher intensity but there weren’t any more real chances. Andonovski making a trio of changes for the USWNT; Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press and Carli Lloyd coming on to form a completely new front three. Morgan went off as did Williams and Tobin Heath whilst Canada made a couple of changes of their own on the hour mark. Nichelle Prince making way for Deanne Rose newly of Reading in the WSL plus Quinn being replaced by Julia Grosso.
A header from Julie Ertz and a curler from Lloyd calling Labbe into action as the USWNT try to force the prerogative. As previously mentioned though the Canadian goalkeeper has had a strong tournament and she deals with what comes her way well.
VAR being called into action as it would seem that, with twenty minutes left, Tierna Davidson has kicked through the back of Rose to get to the ball. The ref consults the pitch-side monitor and then points to the spot, can Christine Sinclair convert from the spot this time? The answer is no because she doesn’t take it, the young Jessie Fleming stepping up instead. It’s in! Franch goes the right way but it is a composed finish from Fleming who have the gold medal match in their sights at this point!
The US kept pushing, hitting the crossbar and generally putting Labbe under pressure, but to no avail. A bronze is the best that the World Cup champions can do and Canada continue to cause a stir as they make it to the final. Sweden or Australia awaits them and it was a penalty from Fleming that proved to be the difference!