Canada sure picked one heck of a time for their first-ever win against Germany.
After 12 losses in 12 previous all-time meetings, the Canadian women’s national team notched a 2-1 upset win over the mighty Germans on Tuesday in the final game of Olympic group-stage play.
Veteran striker Melissa Tancredi, wearing the captain’s armband (with Christine Sinclair on the bench for rest), scored a brace to help Canada clinch first place in Group F with three wins in three games, the first time the Canadians have won their Olympic group.
It was a stuttering start for both teams, but things opened up in the 12th minute, when Canadian fullback Allysha Chapman took down striker Mandy Islacker in the penalty area, allowing veteran Melanie Behringer to open the scoring from the spot.
But the Canadians hit back shortly thereafter, with attacking-third pressure from Desiree Scott leading to a turnover, giving Tancredi the chance to head-fake three German defenders and slot home a left-footed strike. It was the striker’s 26th career goal for Canada, though just her fourth since the 2012 Olympics.
She’d add to that total in the second half, characteristically using her size and strength to get her head to a free kick lofted into the German area.
Despite an advantage in possession and shot attempts, Germany didn’t seriously threaten to equalize until the final minutes. Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé used her fingertips to deny Anja Mittag in the last minute of the 90; in stoppage time, Josée Bélanger got back to deflect a German shot off the goal line to preserve the win.
Though the final bracket is yet to be determined, based on Tuesday’s late results, Canada are most likely to face France in Friday’s quarterfinal, while Germany will face either China or Sweden.
Should the two teams win their respective quarterfinal matches, they’ll face each other in next Tuesday’s semifinal, with a place in the gold-medal match on the line.
13’ – GER – Melanie Behringer (PK)
26’ – CAN – Melissa Tancredi (Desiree Scott)
59’ – CAN – Melissa Tancredi (Rebecca Quinn)
1. GOOD TO GOAL: The absence of long-time top ’keepers Erin McLeod (injury) and Karina LeBlanc (retirement) was a cause for concern for many Canadian fans heading into the tournament. But after some initial nerves in Canada’s first game against Australia, Labbé has shown the sort of confidence and shot-stopping ability that will be vital to Canada’s medal hopes.
2. TANC MODE: While Tancredi’s inclusion on the Olympic roster raised some hackles, her performance against Germany showed the 34-year-old still has something to give for the national team. The attacking trio of Tancredi, Sinclair (two goals) and 21-year-old Janine Beckie (three) has combined for all eight of Canada’s goals this tournament—and all three may start together in the quarterfinal.
3. FULL STRENGTH: Perhaps most remarkable about the win is that Canada did it without Sinclair, Beckie or Kadeisha Buchanan. Those three stars got some rest ahead of the quarterfinals, while Canada also avoided having any players pick up their second yellow cards of the tournament. That means head coach John Herdman will have the luxury of his full 18-player roster available for selection on Friday.
- CAN: Friday, Aug. 12 - quarterfinal vs. opponent TBD, Sao Paulo (6 pm ET, CNBC, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel in US)
- GER: Friday, Aug. 12 - quarterfinal vs. opponent TBD, Salvador (3 pm ET, NBCSN, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel in US)