Canada's women's soccer team won their first ever gold medal at an Olympic games with a sensational win over tournament favorites Sweden at Yokohama National Stadium on Friday.
Bev Priestman's Canadian side beat the Rio 2016 silver medalists via a penalty shootout with the match finishing 1-1 after 120 minutes. Canada were under sustained pressure from the Swedes throughout the match but ultimately edged the victory.
Sweden fell short yet again at the last hurdle and were visibly devastated at the final whistle. Their final standings at Tokyo 2020 equal their highest achievement at an Olympic games, a silver medal at Rio 2016. A first place prize at a major international tournament continues to evade them.
The run of play was immediately dictated by Sweden. Canada spent much of the first half pinned back in their defensive third, enduring wave after wave of sustained attack from the Swedes.
Stina Blackstenius opened the scoring with a clinical finish from a ball across the box from Kosovare Asllani. Sweden were not content with a slender one-goal lead and continued to push for a second before the break. The first-half ended 1-0 with Sweden riding a high wave of momentum.
Priestman was aggressive with her changes, making two substitutions at half-time. Her reshuffle paid off when team captain Christine Sinclair was obstructed in the box by Amanda Ilestedt. A penalty was awarded following a VAR review which Chelsea's Jessie Fleming calmly converted.
Canada were now back in the game but the second half came to a close with the score level at 1-1. A further 30 minutes of extra time were played with Sweden looking the more likely to steal a late winner. However, the match ended deadlocked and the gold medal would be decided by a nerve racking penalty short-out.
Saves were made by both keepers and the shoot-out evetnually ended 3-2 with Canada taking home the ultimate prize. Stephanie Labbe, who plays for Swedish side Rosengard, perhaps had the better game by stopping more penalties and playing an integral role in keeping the Swedes at bay for much of the match.
Canada win their first Olympic gold medal
Scenes of ecstasy and despair came when Julia Grossa converted the winning spot kick. This was the first time a Canadian women's team has won gold in any event at an Olympic games and the jubilation was all too plain to see. Naturally, the Swedes were bitterly disappointed in coming so painfully close to an Olympic gold medal.
Sweden deserves every plaudit possible for a near flawless Tokyo 2020 campaign. Prior to the final, they had won every game within 90 minutes and were seemingly brimming with tactical astuteness, snapping in and out of formations when adapting to an opponent's style of play.
A combination of ferocious tenacity and Priestman's in-game management seems to be the most significant factor in Canada's title win. Player-for-player they were arguably outmatched in many of their games. However, team spirit and that never-say-die mentality is what got them over the line in the end.
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