“I don’t really remember that much about my goal. All I know is that it hit the back of the net, and soon after that the final whistle went,” said a delighted Diana Matheson, in an exclusive chat with FIFA.com, following Canada’s 1-0 victory over France on Thursday in the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament’s bronze medal match. The midfielder’s stoppage-time strike in Coventry not only ensured victory, but secured a creditable third place for the Canucks at London 2012.
Matheson’s memory lapse is a good indicator of the emotions involved in achieving one of the greatest feats in the country’s footballing history. It is an accomplishment that appeared unlikely at certain moments of the second half, when an energised French side continually threatened to find a way through a tiring Canadian rearguard.
“France had an amazing number of chances, and we were under a lot of pressure. But Erin, our goalkeeper, had a great match,” she said.
It is impossible to praise the last-gasp goalscorer in such an encounter without expanding the plaudits to the entire North American defence, starting with the aforementioned Erin McLeod, who succeeded in keeping Les Bleues’ incessant attacks at bay during the second period.
“At the start of the tournament, I conceded a few avoidable goals,” said the smiling Canadian keeper, standing outside the winning dressing room. “That just makes me feel even prouder of what we’ve managed to do today. I should point out that I’m very fortunate to have had such a strong defence in front of me – my team-mates were there to help me out when I needed them,” she added.
Past, present, future
“We weren’t expected to do so well, but we ran the United States close and just beat one of the best sides in the world. I’m so proud of my team,” added McLeod. France were indeed most observers’ pre-match favourites, following their resounding 4-0 victory over Canada during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™.
“That was a year ago, and we’ve changed coaches in the meantime,” pointed out the Alberta-born shot-stopper. “John Herdman has really outdone himself with us. I’d like to congratulate him and his backroom staff. When people put in so much work on your behalf, it motivates you to pay them back on the pitch. We’ve got players who are at the peak of their careers, and the excellent atmosphere in our squad is what made the difference in this competition,” she said.
After the remarkable effort put in by the Canadians during their intense adventure, the bronze medallists will now be able to properly savour their success. “It’s an historic moment for Canada. Obviously, everyone wants to win a gold medal, but I’m just so pleased for our country as well,” she continued.
This unexpected exploit has come at just the right time for the CONCACAF country, bearing in mind the appointment that is circled on their national calendar three years from now. “This result can only help, with us due to host the next Women’s World Cup in 2015,” she said.
The keeper is also grateful for the support the Canucks have received during the event. “The reaction back home has been incredible – people have followed our run with interest. Everyone was glued to their televisions when we played the USA. We’ve helped raise the profile of our sport, and that might well lead to the creation of a professional women’s league,” concluded McLeod, before accompanying her ecstatic team-mates to the medal ceremony in London.