A last-minute winner from Diana Matheson gave Canada a third place finish in the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament after surviving a second half onslaught from France at the City of Coventry stadium.
The omens looked good for France ahead of the game. Les Bleues had beaten Canada 4-0 at the FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2-0 during the Cyprus Cup in March. Plus, every single bronze medal match had been won by a European team: Norway in 1996 and Germany three times in a row between 2000 and 2008.
With a place on the podium at stake, the first half was a nervy affair. Evenly matched, yet entertaining, if not a little cagey, both sides struggled to create clear cut chances. Christine Sinclair shot just over after a good pass from Rhian Wilkinson, while on the stroke of half-time Elodie Thomis also hit the ball over from the edge of the box.
Canada had the best opportunity to take the lead through the opening 45 minutes though a mistake by France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi. She came to collect a high ball, fell over the feet of Laura Georges, which almost allowed Sinclair to turn the ball home, but her defence came to the rescue.
Shortly after half-time, France produced the move of the match when Thomis ran down the right, pulled the ball back for Louisa Necib, whose deflected drive from 12 yards was well-saved by Erin McLeod. Bruno Bini made two substitutions, bringing on Camille Abily and Eugenie Le Sommer which gave the Europeans an extra impetus.
France had plenty of good opportunities to score in quick succession midway through the half. A long ball from the back was well-controlled by Thomis, who shrugged off the attentions of Lauren Sesselmann, turned and hit the bar with a fine right-footed drive. Necib picked up the rebound, but saw her goalbound shot deflected wide.
Another long ball from the back was flicked on by Le Sommer into the path of Abily whose shot bounced off the post. Le Sommer should have scored herself following Thiney’s excellent dribble and pass, but she fired over the bar. Corine Franco had McLeod beaten in the 71st minute, but her shot was cleared off the line by Desiree Scott.
After their extra-time exertions in Manchester on Monday evening, Canada looked tired and out of sorts. Franco had two more opportunities to put her side ahead from corner kicks, but fired wide when well place and headed over as time ticked away.
One began to sense that this wasn’t France’s day and when the fourth official signalled that there were two minutes of added time, John Herdman’s side gained an extra gear. Sinclair was fouled by Abily after releasing the ball and Canada won a free-kick 35 yards from goal.
Matheson swung the ball in, it was flicked on by Sophie Schmidt and Kaylyn Kyle was inches away from scoring. Then with 50 seconds remaining, Canada broke down the left. Sinclair held play up on the edge of the box, picked out Schmidt, whose charge towards goal was halted by Elise Bussaglia.
Matheson took possession, slipping it to Schmidt. Her shot was blocked again by Sonia Bompastor, but the ball fell once again to Matheson who side footed home from eight yards for Canada to take bronze in dramatic style.