Being the underdog in an Olympic knockout game is nothing new for the veterans of the Canadian women’s soccer team.
With four wins in four games so far in Rio, Canada is set to face the favoured Germans in the semifinals on Tuesday. While the Canadian team is full of young newcomers, it also has a steady core of players who’ve been on this stage before.
Five players—Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi, Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt and Rhian Wilkinson—have been on the Canadian team for all three of its Olympic appearances (Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016). Desiree Scott was also on Canada’s squad four years ago.
In Beijing, Canada did enough to get through the group stage but had to face the reigning Olympic champions, the United States, in the quarterfinals.
The USA scored first, but Sinclair equalized soon after. Tied 1-1 at the end of the second half, the game went to extra time. The Americans would ultimately prevail 2-1 and go on to repeat as gold medalists.
Four years later, in London, Canada once again found itself up against the top-ranked Americans, this time at the semifinal stage. Once again Sinclair stepped up, scoring three goals for Canada. And once again, the game went to extra time, with the Americans winning it late and going on to win another gold medal.
There was consolation in the bronze-medal game, however, as Scott helped the team stay solid defensively and Matheson scored a memorable goal to help Canada beat France 1-0 and win the nation’s first Olympic medal in a traditional team sport since Berlin 1936.
Canada won’t meet the United States this year, however; the Americans were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Sweden. Instead, they’ll have to face the next best thing, the No. 2-ranked Germans.
But Canada has already shown in this tournament that Germany can be beaten.
The two teams faced each other in the group stage, with Germany having won all 12 previous meetings. But Tancredi scored twice in that game to lead Canada to a historic 2-1 victory.
Then in the quarterfinals, Schmidt scored the goal in Canada’s 1-0 win over France.
All six veterans could play a part in Tuesday’s game, with the winner advancing to the gold-medal match. Neither team has made it that far in the Olympics before, with Germany having three all-time bronze medals and Canada having one.
But given how well Canada has performed so far in Rio, the third Olympics could be the charm for Sinclair and the rest of the team.