SPORTS

Canada defeats host Great Britain, advances to Olympic women's soccer semifinal

08/03/2012 04:28 EDT | Updated 10/03/2012 05:12 EDT
COVENTRY, England - With a shot at an Olympic medal on the line, Canada's women's soccer team needed to figure out how to breach a stout British defence that had yet to concede a goal.

They did just that, twice in fact, and charged into the semifinals of the London Games with one of their most complete performances in a 2-0 quarter-final win over the host nation on Friday.

"I think we are in shock right now. To win the way we did, I'm just speechless," Canadian captain Christine Sinclair said.

Canada surged to a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute. Sophie Schmidt took a corner kick and found an unmarked Jonelle Filigno right in front of the British goal. Filigno hammered it from 10 yards out and beat British keeper Karen Bardsley.

It was the first goal the British conceded at the tournament. They conceded a second shortly after as Sinclair scored her 140th career international goal. Sinclair drilled a free kick from just outside the British box past a diving Bardsley in the 26th minute.

"We practise those every day in training so it was nice to see it come off," Sinclair said of her goal.

Sinclair is third overall in scoring in women's international soccer. She trails American star Abby Wambach by two goals.

The quick start took the pro-British crowd out of the game.

"It was something we talked about," Filigno said. "We knew the crowd would be getting behind the hosts here, but we are just happy to make it to the semifinal."

Canada was content to keep possession in the second half or force Britain into taking long-range shots. Sinclair had a chance to add to her goal total with a drive late in the game, but Bardsley made the save.

Marie-Eve Nault received a yellow card late in the game for wasting time on a throw-in as Canada attempted to play out the final minutes.

Britain finally threatened the Canadian goal with a dangerous free kick in the 89th minute but Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was able to pounce on the ball during the ensuing scramble.

"Being 2-0 up was always going to be hard to defend but we did it," Canada midfielder Desiree Scott said. "By minute to minute, we left everything we had out there on the pitch. I am so proud."

Britain had been one of the surprises of the Olympic tournament, cruising through the preliminary round by winning all three of its games and finishing first in its group. But they looked shell-shocked after surrendering the early lead and never really troubled the Canadians.

The favoured United States will present a daunting task for Canada in Monday's semifinal. Canada has a 3-43-5 all-time record against the U.S., including a 1-0 extra-time loss in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Canadians have not beaten the Americans since 2001.

The Canadians were encouraged, however, by their play in a 2-1 loss to the U.S. in an Olympic warmup game in June.

"The Americans are obviously favourites for the tournament and are on fire right now," Sinclair said. "But we know them very well and we deserve to be there."

Defending World Cup champion Japan faces France in the other semifinal.

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