Canada falls 2-1 to Sweden in Beijing


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Lori Ewing (The Canadian Press)

Canada is through the quarter-finals in the team's Olympic women's soccer debut, despite a 2-1 loss to Sweden on Tuesday in its final preliminary-round game.

Lotta Schelin scored both goals for Sweden, while Melissa Tancredi scored Canada's only goal on a beautiful diving header in a near-full 58,000 Beijing Workers' Stadium.

The Canadians were already through to the quarter-finals before they even stepped on the pitch for their game against Sweden - thanks to a 1-0 German victory over North Korea in a Group F game played earlier on Tuesday.

But the game was crucial to setting up a favourable match-up for Friday's quarter-finals. They certainly did not get that, drawing the top-ranked defending-champion United States on Friday in Shanghai after dropping to third place in Group E.

"They played very well, it was a high-level soccer game between two very good teams," said Canadian head coach Even Pellerud. "There was more at stake for Sweden of course, and you could see they were very pumped up for the task. So were my players. They had qualified, but the players kept their focus very well."

Schelin's first goal came in the 19th minute when Victoria Svensson held up the ball before laying it off to the sprinting Swedish striker, who scored from just inside the 18-yard box.

Her second came in the 51st minute. Swedish substitute Jessica Landstrom easily beat Canadian defender Rhian Wilkinson in a foot race down the wing, then passed the ball to a wide open Schelin, who hammered home the goal.

Tancredi, who was back after missing Canada's previous game against China with an ankle injury, scored in the 63th minute, taking flight for a diving header off a cross from Amy Walsh.

The number-nine ranked Canadians went into the game tied with China atop Group E with four points apiece. The top two teams in each group advanced to the quarter-finals with the top two third-place teams.

The hard-charging Canadians had numerous scoring chances, but so did the Swedes in a back-and-forth affair that kept Canada's goalkeeper Erin McLeod and her Swedish counterpart Hedvig Lindahl hard at work all night long in the 58,000-seat Beijing Workers' Stadium.

But number-three ranked Sweden, who dispatched Canada in the semifinals of the 2003 World Cup, proved too much for Pellerud's side with their superior tactical play.

Now Canada must face an American team that has handed the Canadians a pair of recent heartbreaking losses. The Americans beat Canada in a penalty shootout during the final of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico before edging the Canadians 1-0 on an injury-time goal in the final of the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea.

"There's a huge rivalry between them and us, we get excited to play the U.S. all the time, and now we get to do it in the Olympics," said Canadian captain Christine Sinclair.

The Canadians finally had some relief from the heat, humidity and smothering smog that had plagued them in their two previous games in Tianjin, about a 120 kilometres south of Beijing. The recent rain here had dissipated the smog, and there was blue sky peeking through the clouds for the first time in a week.

CANADA
18.Erin McLeod; 3.Emily Zurrer (5.Robyn Gayle 81'), 4.Clare Rustad, 6.Sophie Schmidt (13.Amy Walsh 46'), 7.Rhian Wilkinson, 8.Diana Matheson, 9.Candace Chapman, 10.Martina Franko, 12.Christine Sincliair (C) (2.Jodi-Ann Robinson 67'), 14.Melissa Tancredi, 15.Kara Lang

Subs not used: 1.Karina LeBlanc, 11.Randee Hermus, 16.Jonelle Filigno, 17.Brittany Timko

SWEDEN
1.Hedvig Lindahl; 5.Caroline Seger, 6.Sara Thunebro (4.Anna Paulson 86'), 7.Sara Larsson, 8.Lotta Schelin, 11.Victoria Svensson (C), 13.Frida Ostberg, 15.Therese Sjogran, 16.Linda Forsberg, 17.Charlotte Rohlin, 18.Nilla Fischer (9.Jessica Landstrom 27')

Subs not used: 2.Karolina Westberg, 3.Stina Segerstrom, 10.Johanna Almgren, 12.Caroline Jonsson, 19.Maria Aronsson