Stephanie Labbe starred in Canada’s dramatic quarter-final shootout win
The goalkeeper has survived a couple of injury scares during Tokyo 2020
"We have a group of players that still feel the emotion of that Rio 2016 bronze"
Canada have long been renowned for their resilience and sheer willpower in the face of adversity. Christine Sinclair playing on after breaking her nose during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ Opening Match was an iconic moment and very much emblematic of the Canucks’ spirit. If Sinclair’s fortitude was a storied part of Canada’s experience at that competition, goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe is building a similar narrative at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020. Edmonton-born Labbe was forced off injured during the first match and twice needed treatment after suffering heavy knocks in the quarter-final win against Brazil. Her bravery had come at cost but ultimately helped the team reach a third successive Olympic semi-final. “Pain is only temporary,” Labbe told FIFA.com just minutes after two magnificent saves in the penalty shoot-out ensured Canada progressed. Unfortunately for Labbe physical pain has become a theme at Tokyo 2020, yet each time she rebounded to help her team. In Canada’s tournament opener against Japan, Labbe received extensive on-field treatment before saving the subsequent spot-kick, only to be forced off the field almost immediately. It was a similar story against Brazil with the Canadian custodian receiving lengthy treatment just minutes before her spot-kick heroics.
Labbe won’t readily admit to having pedigree with spot-kicks but her three saves suggest otherwise. “It is hard after you make the first save to come down again and be focussed,” Labbe said. “But I knew in that moment I wanted to be there for my team and so I did everything I could to be ready. “We have been training penalties and for me, I know my mindset is one of my strongest attributes of my game. I know those are the moments when I can really shine, and bring the attributes that I’m good at, and that is being calm and composed and trusting myself.”
Chasing gold Canada have won bronze in the past two Olympic tournaments, including with Labbe in goal during Rio 2016. That medallion is rightly a source of great pride for the 34-year-old. Labbe and her team-mates are driven to go one step further at Tokyo 2020. Standing in the way are north American rivals and reigning world champions USA, with the Canadian custodian having spent several seasons south of the border in the NWSL. “I have my eyes set on one thing only, and that is to get us into the final and give us a chance to win that gold medal. “[USA] have an extremely attack-minded players with big threats up top but it is not like anything we haven’t seen. We just played a [Brazil] team that has some of the world’s best players up top, so it comes back to focussing on ourselves and doing what we do best. “We have played the US so many times, so that is something we are used to. Club football is one thing but when it is the national team it is a different [thing]. “We have a big group [of players] that were there in 2016 and I think still feels that emotion from the semi-final. We are our set on one thing only, and that is getting ourselves into the final. We are going to throw everything at the game to give us the best opportunity to succeed.”