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Fleming leads Canada to Olympic gold over Sweden

Fleming leads Canada to Olympic gold over Sweden
Posted at 7:38 AM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 11:07:32-04

After back-to-back bronze medal finishes at Rio 2016 and London 2012, Canada has finally claimed Olympic gold.

For the first time in Olympic women's soccer history, the gold medal match went to penalties. And once the dust settled, Canada earned the top step on the podium by winning the shootout 3-2 after 120 minutes couldn't separate the sides.

Jessie Fleming took the spotlight on a Friday night in Tokyo, who converted from the spot in the second half to equalize and scored Canada's first penalty in the shootout.

After Fleming converted, Canada missed three straight -- two saved by Hedvig Lindahl and one hammered off the crossbar by Vanessa Gilles -- giving Sweden's Caroline Seger a chance to win gold for her nation.

She skied her penalty over the bar.

Then, Canada's Deanne Rose beautifully curled her attempt into the upper right corner. Jonna Andersson missed for Sweden on the ensuing penalty, and 20-year-old Julia Grosso, who plays her soccer at the University of Texas, closed the door with a penalty that got a piece of Lindahl but nestled into the back of the net anyway.

The result marks is a historic one for Canada -- it’s the first time that the national team has won an Olympic or World Cup trophy.

 

The first half opened slowly, but the breakthrough came just after the half hour mark when Sweden forced a turnover in Canada's half. The ball was played down the line for Kosovare Asllani, who stormed into the penalty area and drilled in a low cross for Stina Blackstenius

The centre forward's right-footed effort snuck through the legs of Gilles and past a diving Stephanie Labbe, giving the Swedes the opener.

From there, clear-cut chances were few and far between.

The first opportunity of the second half came twenty minutes in when Sweden's Amanda Ilestedt clipped Christine Sinclair in the box. After a no-call on the pitch, a VAR review overturned the decision and handed Canada a penalty.

But it wasn't Sinclair, the all-time leading international goal-scorer in men's or women's soccer, who stepped up to take it. Instead, the captain handed it off to Fleming, who previously converted from the spot in Canada's semifinal match against the United States.

Fleming -- cool, calm and collected -- dispatched the penalty into the bottom left.

Sweden came back with a stream of chances, but a combination of quality Canadian defending and some wayward finishing kept the score level.

Finally, with three minutes left in extra time, it looked like a Swedish header had been bungled over the line amidst a crowd of yellow and red shirts inside the six-yard box. Somehow, though, Canada kept the ball out, effectively sending the gold medal match to penalties.

Then, six rounds and twelve penalties later, Canada became Olympic champions thanks to three saves from Labbe and two fantastic spot kicks from Rose and Grosso.

Only three nations had won Olympic gold prior to Tokyo 2020 -- Norway, Germany and the United States. With the win, Canada becomes the fourth.

In the bronze medal match on Thursday, the United States defeated Australia, 4-3.