Great Britain’s women exited the Olympic football tournament with a whimper after John Herdman’s Canada team produced an assured performance to coast to a 2-0 victory at the City of Coventry Stadium. Team GB struggled to recreate the mixture of urgency and composure they exemplified in their impressive 1-0 defeat of Brazil in the last round of group fixtures as two first half goals from a wily Canada team proved too great of a task to overcome in a deflating 2nd half.
Canada started the game the brighter of the two teams and their high pressing play stifled the potential for Team GB to build any pivotal early momentum. Both the crowd and GB’s creative outlets in Aluko, Little and Carney were subdued and when Canada took the lead on 12 minutes with an excellently worked corner-kick it came as no surprise. Sophie Schmidt’s crisp centred ball found the darting run of Jonelle Filigno, who caught the ball with a rasping half-volley that eluded Karen Carney on the post to fly into the top corner.
To their credit Great Britain responded well to going behind and as they started to press Canada higher up the pitch the crowd came alive. The crucial equaliser nearly came when Alex Scott swung a threatening cross into the box to find Karen Carney. Agonisingly though Carney miscued her header and the ball flew narrowly over the target. Following this lucky escape Canada rallied and when Kim Little brought down Desiree Scott on the edge of the penalty area a chance to double the lead was presented to the CONCACAF champions. Captain Christine Sinclair duly obliged as she guided home the set-piece, catching out Karen Bardsley who was slow to get across to the left of her target.
Great Britain were stunned and could never build a serious flow of momentum as Canada defended resolutely whilst slowing the tempo of the game in midfield. Ultimately this began to frustrate GB as their frantic attempts to find a way back into the match resulted in ragged play that only helped Canada count down the clock. The venue of the quarter-final didn’t help the GB cause in this desperate context and despite the Coventry crowd commendably lending their voices to the cause throughout the 2nd half, perhaps the lure of playing at an arena such as Wembley or Old Trafford would have been more inspiring for Hope Powell’s dispirited team.
As time wore on Jill Scott was pushed into attack to counter the physical presence of Canada’s defence whilst Fara Williams was introduced to provide added penetrative vision in midfield, both changes proved ineffective and in the end Team GB were looking for a stroke of luck to revive their medal hopes. Such luck was denied when cries for a penalty were waved away by referee Sachiko Yamaguchi to the fury of the Team GB players after Eniola Aluko was brought down by Rhian Wilkinson in the game’s dying stages, thus ending any remaining hopes for an Olympic medal.
As Yamaguchi’s full time whistle sounded a campaign that had looked so promising for Hope Powell’s team ended in subdued fashion, unfortunately preventing Team GB the chance to provide British supporters of the women’s game a lasting memory of a tournament that has helped to raise public interest in the sport.
For Canada, a semi-final grudge match versus their arch-rivals USA at Old Trafford awaits. Tournament favourites USA sealed their progression from the quarter-finals following a 2-0 victory over a resolute New Zealand team at St. James’ Park. The other semi-final tie will be contested by world champions Japan and France at Wembley following Japan’s 2-0 defeat ofBrazilinCardiffandFrance’s 2-1 victory over Sweden at Hampden Park.
France 2-1 Sweden
Brazil 0-2 Japan
USA 2-0 New Zealand
Great Britain 0-2 Canada
Player of the Day: Christine Sinclair (Canada)