Christine Sinclair, Rhian Wilkinson - Canada women's national team (CANWNT) - smiles
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Canada vs. Brazil | 2016 Women's Olympic Match Preview

CANADA vs. BRAZIL
Women’s Olympic Soccer, Rio 2016 – Bronze Medal Match
Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Friday, August 19, 12 pm ET
TV: NBCSN, NBC Sports app in US, CBC in Canada

It’s Christine Sinclair vs. Marta, one more – possibly final – time.

The two superstars have been the faces of their respective national teams for a decade, and both were aiming to help their squads claim a first-ever Olympic gold in Rio. As it stands, one will earn bronze and the other will go home empty-handed in what could be their final Olympic Games.

The fates seemed to be aligning for Sinclair, 33, and Marta, 30, to meet in the gold-medal final in Rio. Canada won their group with a perfect three-win record, including a first-ever win over Germany. But in a semifinal rematch, the Germans put together a professional performance to claim a 2-0 win.

Brazil also won their group, thumping Sweden 5-1 along the way. In front of a raucous home crowd of over 70,000 at the Maracana in the semifinal, however, the Brazilians were ground down by the Swedes’ defend-and-counter approach, ultimately falling on penalty kicks.

Losing this match will do nothing to diminish the legacy of either Sinclair or Marta, both of whom have over 100 goals for their countries, and both of whom are largely responsible for bringing their respective teams to relevance in their home nations.

But winning the bronze will no doubt be the aim for a pair of fierce competitors who haven’t shied away from the big moments over their storied careers.

Fighting spirit

This will be the 20th all-time meeting between the two senior sides, who have traditionally been highly competitive against one another. Brazil have seven wins, Canada have six wins and the teams have drawn six times.

Most recently, they split a pair of pre-Olympic friendlies in Canada. The Canadians came out flat in a 2-0 loss at Toronto’s BMO Field on June 4, while a last-second Janine Beckie goal gave Canada a 1-0 win at Ottawa’s TD Place three days later.

Brazil have definitely held home-field advantage in this feud, as Canada have never won on Brazilian soil (three draws, three losses). However, the last time these two teams met in a knockout game – in the final of the 2011 Pan American Games – Canada did prevail on penalty kicks.

Learning experience

It’s been a tough Olympic debut for central defender Kadeisha Buchanan, who has been one of Canada’s most reliable players since breaking onto the scene three years ago.

The 20-year-old gave away a penalty kick in the semifinal with a rash challenge on Alexandra Popp, after similarly lunging in on France’s Eugenie Le Sommer in the quarterfinals (though on that occasion, the referee did not give a foul). Buchanan, whose speed and physicality normally allow her to thrive, has seen four yellow cards in four games played at Rio.

She will, however, remain a crucial part of the team for years to come, and the bronze-medal match could be a good opportunity for some measure of redemption in what should be a raucous environment.

Fond farewell

Head coach John Herdman has adamantly insisted that Sinclair will still be a part of the Canadian team into the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Though she’ll be 36 at that time, one need only look across the field on Friday at 38-year-old Formiga, still performing at a high level for Brazil, for proof that it can be done.

So while this match likely isn’t a swan song for the Canadian captain—whose 164 goals are the second most in international soccer history—it could be the final big-tournament appearance for other long-time contributors such as Melissa Tancredi, 34, Rhian Wilkinson, 34, and Diana Matheson, 32.

Although taking home a bronze medal is indisputably the team’s top priority on the day, it remains to be seen whether Herdman’s approach to the game will include ensuring a good send-off for some of Canada’s stalwarts.  

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