Labbe stars as Canada battle back to win Olympic gold
Canada beat Sweden on penalties to win Olympic gold in Yokohama
Become just the fourth nation to top the podium in this tournament
Stephanie Labbe the Canadians’ shoot-out heroine once again
Canada have won Olympic gold for the first time in their history after edging Sweden on penalties following a dramatic 1-1 draw at the Yokohama International Stadium.
Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe was once again the shoot-out heroine as the Canadians became just the fourth nation – after USA, Germany and Norway - to triumph in this competition.
Sweden 1-1 (2-3 PSO) Canada Yokohama International Stadium
The Olympic match schedule is intense, unrelenting and, for the players involved, undeniably exhausting. But you would not have known the efforts already expended from the levels of skill, speed and stamina on show in Yokohama. Even before the goals arrived, this was an outstanding game of football; a credit to both sides and their respective coaches. The first half belonged to Sweden, and pressure had been building even before Stina Blackstenius swept home – via a slight deflection – from a low Kosovare Asllani cross.
Bev Priestman reacted with a double half-time substitution, and a rejuvenated Canada roared back. Jessie Fleming, their semi-final heroine, proved nerveless from the spot once again, sending Hedvig Lindahl the wrong way after Amanda Ilestedt was penalised - following a VAR review - for a late and needless tackle on Christine Sinclair.
The Canadians looked to be the hungrier, sharper team as extra time beckoned, although Lina Hurtig missed two gilt-edged chances as Sweden mounted a late onslaught in the final ten minutes of the 120.
Penalties, therefore, decided the outcome of a game neither side deserved to lose, with Julia Grosso slotting home the winning kick after a shoot-out in which nerves and goalkeeping excellence came to the fore. Lindahl saved from Ashley Lawrence and Adriana Leon, but after Caroline Seger blazed over a potentially match-winning kick, it was Labbe who thrived again with decisive stops that secured gold in the most dramatic of fashion.
The Final of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020
Caroline Seger #17 of Team Sweden battles for possession with Jessie Fleming #17 of Team Canada
YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Caroline Seger #17 of Team Sweden battles for possession with Jessie Fleming #17 of Team Canada during the Women's Gold Medal Match between Canada and Sweden on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at International Stadium Yokohama on August 06, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Alex Grimm - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Fridolina Rolfo #18 of Team Sweden runs with the ball under pressure from Quinn #5 of Team Canada
YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Fridolina Rolfo #18 of Team Sweden runs with the ball under pressure from Quinn #5 of Team Canada during the Women's Gold Medal Match between Canada and Sweden on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at International Stadium Yokohama on August 06, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Alex Livesey - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Seger has been truly outstanding at this tournament and, indeed, throughout a record-breaking international career. It was therefore cruel in the extreme that Sweden’s veteran captain should be the one to miss when gold – her first - seemed to be within touching distance.
Labbe has waited a long time to become Canada’s No1, and for her and her team, it has proved well worth the wait. Superb throughout the tournament, and her team’s shoot-out saviour in an equally tight quarter-final against Brazil, the Canucks’ keeper again produced the big moments on the biggest of stages.
As well as becoming only the fourth nation to win gold at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, Canada are just the third to appear on the podium more than twice. Record champions USA lead the way on six, with 2016 gold medallists Germany following behind on four. In 24 meetings with the Swedes, this was just their sixth win.