Tokyo 2020 Olympics Gold Medal Match Final Score: Sweden 1-1 Canada (2-3 on penalties) Goalscorers: Blackstenius (34') , Fleming (67')
Match in a minute or lessCanada did it -- they're Olympic champions for the first time after a dramatic penalty shootout win over Sweden at Tokyo 2020. A lot of the first 45 minutes were spent in the Canadian half of the pitch. Sweden were taking advantage of giveaways in the Canadian midfield and counter-attacking, creating numerous chances, and found their goal in the 34th minute. After a low cross from the right flank, Stina Blackstenius redirected the ball with her first touch, through the legs of Vanessa Gilles and past Stephanie Labbé. Canada had a few chances of their own as Jessie Fleming and Nichelle Prince were among the Canadians to get into good areas with the ball, but they'd enter the break down a goal. Not happy with their first-half performance, Canada came firing out of the gates after the interval, creating some good chances down the right flank with Ashley Lawrence and halftime substitute Adriana Leon in particular, but Canada were still missing a crucial goal. As was the case in the semifinal, Canada's goal would come from the penalty spot. After a VAR check, a foul in the box on Christine Sinclair was called, and it was again Fleming who stepped up to take it. She buried her shot into the bottom left corner, tying the game at 1-1. After the goal Canada stepped it up another notch, creating significantly more chances than they did in the first half, but this match would be tied at one goal apiece after 90 minutes. The extra 30 minutes would be fairly uneventful with 22 tired players running about in the Yokohama heat, with the best chance for a winner coming from a Swedish corner. Lina Hurtig got to the cross into the box, but her header went just wide of the post. Jordyn Huitema had a similar chance at the other end after Deanne Rose floated in a cross moments later, but her header also didn't challenge the goalkeeper. Jessie Fleming scored her opening penalty but Canada failed to convert their next three and Sweden jumped ahead, scoring twice. When Canada needed a superhero most, Stephanie Labbé stepped up once again. She made a save, before Deanne Rose smashed her shot into the top right corner, tying it at 2-2. Labbé made another stop as the penalties went to sudden death, handing Julia Grosso a chance to write her name in the record books. Grosso took it, as the 20-year-old struck her penalty well, and despite getting a touch on it, Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl couldn't keep it out. With the historic victory, Canada stand atop the podium as Olympic champions. It's a first gold medal for Canada, who have now reached the podium at a third straight Olympics, and a first-ever win for the country at a global tournament.
Three ObservationsLabbé, Grosso the heroes for Canada on penalties Finally taking advantage of a mixture of legendary veterans and exciting young players, Canada have their Olympic gold medal. In the end, it was both that helped them pick up the victory. Stephanie Labbé came up big in the shootout win over Brazil in the quarterfinal, earning Canada a spot in the semifinal, where her efforts to keep out shots from a dangerous American attack were again crucial. Labbé was a main reason Canada got to the final, and she did it again on the biggest stage. The 34-year-old shotstopper made a pair of saves in the shootout against Sweden, as Labbé also watched Sweden hit the post and sky a shot over the bar. She was dancing and smiling in the goal before the kicks to put off the shooters, and it worked. Needing a goal to equalize in the shootout, 22-year-old Deanne Rose placed her shot just under the crossbar into the top right corner, and Canada were tied. After Sweden failed to take the lead in sudden death, 20-year-old Julia Grosso stepped up and the rest, they say, is history. Priestman not afraid to make big decisions Bev Priestman had a big call to make at halftime. Janine Beckie had been booked in the first half, and looked frustrated as passes weren't connecting and chances weren't coming to fruition. Priestman made a big decision during the break to substitute her out for Adriana Leon. Leon held nothing back off the bench, instantly creating a few chances and causing problems for a good Sweden backline as the game progressed. Quinn also made way at the break, replaced by Julia Grosso. While Quinn had unlocked the defence with a few long passes, they were struggling to connect shorter passes and giving the ball away in the middle of the park. Priestman made the decision to bring on Grosso, who looked lively for the remaining 75 minutes, and ended up scoring the winning penalty. They were tough calls, but they proved to be the right ones. Canadian giveaways costly at times As mentioned, Canada gave the ball away a lot in midfield, especially in the first half, and were getting punished for it. Sweden were winning the ball pretty much every time Canada tried to play out of the back, as their high press was forcing errors from the Canadian midfielders. In the form of either intercepted passes, or errant balls into touch, Sweden were putting a lot of pressure on Canada, and hitting them on the counter-attack. In the end it wouldn't end up losing them the match, but it's definitely something for Bev Priestman to keep an eye on in the future.
CanPL.ca Player of the MatchStephanie Labbé, Canada The Canadian goalkeeper made some big stops in the first 120 minutes of the match, and once again was the hero in the penalty shootout -- earning Canada a gold medal.