Not many had predicted that Canada would win gold at the Tokyo Olympics in women’s soccer. Clearly, the favorites to win the title were the evergreen United States women's national team (USWNT) or Sweden.
The Canadian team thrived on tenacity and team spirit to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
Statistically, they were outclassed in most of their matches. But the tactical savvy of coach Bev Priestman saw the team advance through to the all-important gold medal match.
Canada adopted a conservative playing style throughout the tournament. As a result, they utilized all their chances up front with players like Christine Sinclair and Jessie Fleming forging a ferocious attacking partnership.
The defensive line was also solid and conceded just three goals in the tournament. Progressing through the group stages and quarter-finals was no easy task for the Canadian team.
The highlight of their campaign was beating the USWNT in the penultimate stage of the competition. The match was arguably worthy of a final as it pitted two great rivals of women’s soccer against each other.
Following glory in the final against the mighty Swedes, players like Stephanie Labbe, Jessie Fleming, Ashley Lawrence, Christine Sinclair, and 20-year-old Julia Grosso became national heroes.
Without further ado, let's look at how the Canadian women achieved this historic feat.
#5 - Canada’s qualification to the Tokyo Olympics
Canada qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after placing second in the 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. It was held in Texas and California with the USWNT crowned champions for the fifth time.
Coach Beverly Priestman named a squad of 18 players ahead of the Olympics for the Canadian women’s soccer team. Like many of their fellow contestants, they were uncertain of their fate in the women’s football tournament.
With soccer powerhouses like the Netherlands, the Swedes and the enigmatic USWNT in the mix, it was a long shot for Canada.
However, the presence of Christine Sinclair in the squad provided the needed motivation for the Canadians. 12 of the Canadian players were part of the 2012 bronze-winning team at the London Olympics.
Evidently, the Canadians did have the experience but what road map did they draw this time to win another medal at Tokyo?
#4 - Group stages
The Canadians were drawn in Group E together with world-class teams like Great Britain, Chile and the hosts, Japan.
The match against Japan was slated for July 21 at Yokohama Stadium and ended in a 1-1 draw.
Their second game was a thrilling battle with Chile where they emerged triumphant after Janine Beckie’s brace. Canada had amassed four points and were going to encounter Great Britain in their final game.
Team GB were unbeaten in their last two games and beating the Canadians was a moment they yearned for. Canada looked like they had victory within their grasp until Caroline Weir scored a late goal in the dying minutes of the game.
Canada finished the group stages with five points and that was enough to launch them into the knockout phase of the competition.