Friday, December 3

USWNT vs. Canada: Why the Olympic Soccer Semifinal Could Be Another Classic

It’s been a while since we saw a women’s soccer showdown between the United States and Canada in a major international competition. After both teams survived the quarter-finals on penalties, the Tokyo 2021 tournament draw has gifted us with the first Olympic qualifying match between the two neighbors since 2012. This game will have a place for the match for the gold medal as a prize for the winner.

Those were the same risks at the London 2012 Olympics when a controversial goal by Alex Morgan in injury time decided a 4-3 game in favor of the United States moments before he headed to the penalty shoot-out. The Canadians have vowed to take their revenge for that result and Monday could be their best chance with the Americans proving that they are vulnerable in this tournament, winning just one of their four matches.

Canada’s Olympic dream is to reach the final and change the color of the bronze medal it won in 2012 and 2016. In the meantime, it is not a dream, but an expectation that the number one American women in the ranking will achieve it. to the game for the gold medal. They reached every Olympic soccer finals except 2016 (beaten by penalties in the quarterfinals by Sweden).

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“2012 was a long time ago,” Morgan said of facing Canada after the United States’ quarter-final victory over the Netherlands. “We have played them practically every year since then. And we know them so well. Obviously a lot of their players play in the NWSL alongside us – opponents, teammates. We are ready to play with them. “

A rivalry waiting to take off

Although the bad blood is real, mainly on the Canadian side, the United States-Canada cannot blossom into a full-blown rivalry until Canadian women win a few games. Despite how competitive Canada’s women’s program has been in recent years, their last win against the United States dates back to March 2001 in friendly competition. That’s over 20 years and 36 games ago. The all-time US record is 51-3-7.

The 2012 Olympic semi-final was a brief taste of the level of entertainment this border rivalry could become as the Canadian program continues to move forward. The current US Olympic team has seven vestiges from 2012, while the Canadians carry four:

The two teams also previously met in the 2008 Olympic quarterfinals. won that one too, and he needed more time to do it, 2-1.

But in the years since the epic 2012 semi-final match, Canada has failed to really close the gap. In official competitive matches between the two nations, regional qualification for the Olympics and the World Cup, the USA is 3-0-0 with seven goals scored and none conceded.

But Monday has the potential to be a turning point.

The 2021 Olympic semi-final showdown

The United States may have the most recognizable names on their list of years of winning titles, but the American and Canadian teams have many similarities: from world-class players like fullback (Ashley Lawrence vs. Crystal Dunn), to experienced players and hard tacklers. midfielders (Desiree Scott vs. Julie Ertz), creative midfielders known for their unpredictability (Janine Beckie vs. Rose Lavelle), dangerous wingers who can get behind defenses (Nichelle Prince vs. Christen Press), and veteran forwards who are still hungry for goals (Christine Sinclair vs. Carli Lloyd).

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The talent ladder is clearly tilted in favor of the US for now, but what could level the playing field in this match is that Canada’s main strength (team defense) matches the US strong well. . (Attack). Canada has just finished off Brazil’s attack and will not give the Americans the same spaces as the Netherlands in the quarterfinal stage.

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Canadian center-back Vaness Gilles single-handedly extinguished several Brazilian attacks and, along with fellow center-back Kadeisha Buchanan and full-backs Lawrence and Allysha Chapman, were the stars of the quarterfinals against prominent PK goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who is in a strong running form in this tournament.

Canada’s problems will clearly come in the areas of blueprint creation. His seven total shots on goal in four games are the second-fewest of the tournament, and his 29 total shots are the fewest of any of the quarterfinals. Bev Priestman’s team will continue to rely on their speedy wingers, set pieces or moments of magic from Sinclair or Beckie to break through.

So he prepares for another intense, physical and close showdown between two teams that are equally hungry to make the gold medal match. Neither of them will be content with playing for the bronze and should shine on the field.

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