Canada edge Sweden on penalties to win Olympic women’s football gold

Sports Tokyo 2020

Julia Grosso (C) is mobbed by her Canada team-mates after scoring the winning penalty in the shootout. AFP
Julia Grosso (C) is mobbed by her Canada team-mates after scoring the winning penalty in the shootout. AFP

Yokohama, Japan | AFP

by Martyn WOOD

Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe saved two spot-kicks in a nail-biting shootout as Canada defeated Sweden 3-2 on penalties to clinch Olympic women’s football gold for the first time Friday in Yokohama.

Stina Blackstenius scored her team-best fifth goal of the tournament to give Sweden the lead, but Jessie Fleming’s penalty in the second half sent the match to extra time and it finished 1-1 after 120 minutes.

Kosovare Asllani hit the post with Sweden’s first attempt and Labbe, the hero of Canada’s quarter-final shootout win over Brazil, denied Anna Anvegard and Jonna Andersson.

Sweden captain Caroline Seger missed a chance to win it when she blazed her team’s fifth kick over, with Deanne Rose keeping Canada alive after three successive misses.

Julia Grosso then squeezed her penalty beyond Hedvig Lindahl to trigger wild celebrations for Canada and their iconic captain Christine Sinclair, who had to settle for bronze medals at the past two Games.

“We wanted to create a moment in Canadian history that would change the game forever, and hopefully we have,” said Canada coach Bev Priestman.

“It was a long shootout, it felt very long, but I said to the group before they went out that Steph’s (Labbe) done it before and she’ll do it again, and she did it. It was unbelievable.”

Defeat for Sweden extended their wait for a first major trophy since the inaugural Women’s European Championship in 1984.

“We had a good feeling during the game that we had a chance to win, so we’re extremely disappointed,” said Sweden forward Fridolina Rolfo.

“I really thought that we should win but then it went to penalties and then everything can happen.”

Venue and time switched

Organisers relocated the final from Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, the venue used for the athletics events, south of the capital to Yokohama and delayed kick-off from 11am to 9pm because of heat concerns.

Yet it was still 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit) as Sweden made their second straight appearance in the final. High humidity bumped the heat index up to 34C.

Sweden, runners-up to Germany in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, entered the final with a perfect five wins from five -- including an opening 3-0 rout of the United States.

Four players from that silver medal-winning side five years ago started here; Seger, Lindahl, Sofia Jakobsson and Asllani.

Priestman unsurprisingly stuck with the starting XI that eliminated the USA, four-time Olympic champions, in the semi-finals.

Rolfo, whose goal saw off Australia in the previous round, forced a stop from Labbe with a curling effort from distance before Jakobsson’s header was palmed away.

Sweden grabbed the lead on 34 minutes after Canada midfielder Quinn was dispossessed just inside halfway. Asllani countered and squared for Blackstenius to sweep home via a deflection off Vanessa Gilles.

Canada showed far more attacking intent after the break. Defender Ashley Lawrence had her effort hacked off the line after substitute Rose’s perseverance created the chance following a spill by Lindahl.

Just like in the semi-final against the USA, Canada were awarded a penalty upon review as the 38-year-old Sinclair was caught by a lunging Amanda Ilestedt.

Fleming again stepped forward, this time sending Lindahl the wrong way to bring Canada level. The Chelsea midfielder nearly bagged a quick-fire second, rifling narrowly over moments later.

Rolfo and Asllani wasted chances to win it for Sweden in normal time, and the exertions of playing six matches in 17 days in sweltering conditions made a shootout almost inevitable.

Canada desperately scrambled the ball clear as Sweden threatened to snatch a late winner, but instead they watched the title again elude them in the cruellest of ways.

Stina Blackstenius (L) scored for the fifth time in as many matches at the Tokyo Olympics. AFP
Stina Blackstenius (L) scored for the fifth time in as many matches at the Tokyo Olympics. AFP

Canada's Jessie Fleming scored a penalty for the second game in a row. AFP
Canada’s Jessie Fleming scored a penalty for the second game in a row. AFP

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Tokyo 2020 AFP