Canadian women win bronze medal at Algarve Cup in penalty shootout

Canadian women win bronze medal at Algarve Cup in penalty shootout

Canada 6 Sweden 5 (SO)

LOULE, Portugal — Canada displayed a resolute defence and some steely nerves Wednesday in dispatching Sweden in a 6-5 penalty shootout to claim bronze at the Algarve Cup.

After Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe dived to her right to deny Hanna Glas, Jessie Fleming, a 20-year-old UCLA midfielder, stepped up to beat Hedvig Lindahl for the win.

Sophie Schmidt, Deanne Rose, Ashley Lawrence, Janine Beckie and Kadeisha Buchanan also converted their penalties against the ninth-ranked Swedes.

Canada captain Christine Sinclair and Sweden’s Mimmi Larsson missed in the penalty shootout.

With Sinclair missing Canada’s second penalty attempt, the pressure was on. But Labbe stopped the Swedes’ fourth try to restore parity. Labbe came up big again on Sweden’s seventh attempt.

“To make that last save felt good that I was able to do that for the team,” said Labbe.

Fifth-ranked Canada won the bronze despite scoring just one goal in its three matches at the 12-team women’s soccer tournament. But it also did not concede a goal, extending its perfect run on defence to 362 minutes.

“I think there’s a lot of positives to take out of this tournament,” said Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller. “Today it’s the fourth clean sheet in a row. We saw everyone in action, all 23 players, that explains a lot about our depth.

“This match was awesome, playing against Sweden who is a top team and the amount of pressure we put on them defensively and offensively is pretty amazing. If we can play like this … it’s looking good, but we need to do better to find the back of the net and we will be working on that as we prepare to face England in April.”

Canada takes on fourth-ranked England on April 5 in Manchester in another World Cup warmup.

No. 13 Norway blanked No. 34 Poland 3-0 in the championship game.

It was 0-0 after 90 minutes with Canada outshooting Sweden 8-7, although the Swedes had a 4-3 edge in shots on target. It was an entertaining contest with chances at both ends on a windy day at a largely empty Estadio Algarve, which was built for Euro 2004.

Heiner-Moller made two chances from the starting lineup that beat Scotland 1-0 — on a Sinclair penalty.

Labbe replaced Erin McLeod in goal while Nichelle Prince came in for Jordyn Huitema. Canada continued with a back three with Shelina Zadorsky and Schmidt flanking Buchanan.

It was an even opening but gradually Canada began to exert some pressure offensively. Canada’s pressing game, meanwhile, disrupted the Swedes’ buildup.

Lindahl had to tip a looping Prince shot over the crossbar in the 14th minute, crashing into the goalpost in the process.

Lindahl, who plays for the Chelsea women’s team in England, came to the rescue in the 26th minute when she just beat Sinclair to the ball in the penalty box after a probing cross from Lawrence.

Canada threatened late in the half but a timely block by Magdalena Eriksson, another Chelsea player, took care of an Allysha Chapman shot in the penalty box.

A Lawrence goal was called offside in first-half stoppage time.

Beckie’s throw-in was chested forward by Sinclair to Fleming, whose cross found Lawrence in front of goal. But Fleming was judged to have been offside.

A timely intervention by Amanda Ilestedt prevented what looked like a sure Sinclair goal in the 53rd minute after Prince floated a perfect cross to her captain in front of goal.

But Ilestedt got a boot on it to end the threat.

Swedish defender Nilla Fischer then hit the crossbar in the scramble following a corner in the 56th minute. Beckie’s cross hit the top of the goal in the 67th.

With 20 minutes remaining, Canada brought on 20-year-old Rose, 18-year-old Julia Grosso and Lindsay Agnew for Prince, Desiree Scott and Chapman, pushing Schmidt into a more attacking role.

The changes produced immediate pressure but Lindahl handled the Beckie shot that arose from it.

Canada’s career record against Sweden improved to 6-13-3 — and 3-1-2 in their last six meetings. The Swedes are also World Cup-bound.

Canada tied No. 22 Iceland 0-0 in its opening match before defeating Scotland on Sinclair’s 179th international goal. The 35-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., is now within five goals of retired American Abby Wambach’s world record.

Canada won the Algarve Cup in 2016 and was runner-up in 2017.

The Canadian women finished fifth last year after beating Japan 2-0 in their final match. Canada, second to Sweden in Group B with a 2-1-0 record, was consigned to the fifth-place game after finishing as the second-best runner-up behind Portugal (2-0-1).

The championship game between Sweden and the Netherlands was cancelled due to heavy rain. Both teams were awarded first place.

Canada has been drawn in a group with the seventh-ranked Netherlands, No. 19 New Zealand and No. 46 Cameroon at the World Cup, which starts June 7.

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