On Friday, Canada won’t just be facing Brazil in women’s soccer—they’ll be facing a big, boisterous and very biased crowd.
The bronze-medal match takes place at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, with Canadian head coach John Herdman’s team looking to defend the bronze they won at London 2012.
Brazil, ranked No. 8 in the world, drew over 70,000 fans to their semifinal match, meaning there will be plenty of interest from the soccer-loving locals for what should be an exciting medal match.
“Brazil will have a home crowd that will be willing them all the way,” said Herdman. “It will be a pretty hostile crowd for Canada, we know that.”
But Herdman said playing in front of a home crowd can also bring pressure, as the Canadian team found out when they played in front of massive crowds in Edmonton, Montreal and Vancouver at last summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Friday’s game will be a matchup between two of the top defensive teams in the Olympic tournament, with Canada only conceding two goals from open play (plus two more on penalty kicks) in six games, and the Brazilians only conceding one.
“I genuinely believe the game will be won and lost in a transitional moment or set play,” said Herdman. “This is quite an evenly matched bronze medal contest. I think Brazil have got a fantastic forward line, so we will have to be at our best to keep them at bay.”
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The manager said he expects the energy of the crowd will push Brazil to attack early, which will make it crucial for Canada’s defence to hold strong. In the bronze-medal match at London 2012, France pressed in the attack for the entire game, but were held off the score sheet as Canada won 1-0.
If the Canadian defence can do the same this time around, they might find themselves on the Olympic podium once again.
“We experienced an incredible moment in London,” said defender Rhian Wilkinson. “This team is even stronger than our side four years ago. I’m convinced of that.
“We have to, and we will, do everything to win another bronze medal and relive that experience.”
The match is at 12 p.m. ET on CBC.