Canada fight back to reach quarterfinals of 2012 London Olympics

Ex-'Caps striker Tancredi scores twice in 2-2 draw with Sweden

Canada have qualified for the quarterfinal stage of the London 2012 Women's Olympic Football Tournament. The Canadians qualified for the knock-out phase following an inspiring 2-2 draw with Sweden in Tuesday’s group finale.

 With four points after three matches, Canada is one of eight advancing teams after finishing third in Group F. In the quarterfinals, Canada will meet hosts and Group E winners Great Britain in Coventry, England, on Friday evening.

Former Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Melissa Tancredi’s second goal of the match in the last 10 minutes capped a two-goal comeback, as Canada came away from the North East of England with a draw versus Sweden at St. James’ Park.

Canada’s equalizer came with just six minutes remaining. Tancredi had missed a glorious opportunity in the first half on a cross from former ‘Caps goalscorer Christine Sinclair in the first half, but was presented with the same opportunity in the second half that she wasn’t going to miss.

"I saw Christine making eye contact and I knew she was going to chip it in for me," said Tancredi. "I put my body on the line and dived to put my head on it."

Sinclair knocked in a cross from the left side that both Tancredi and ex-Vancouver midfielder Kaylyn Kyle went up to meet with a header. Tancredi connected for the goal, her second of the game and fourth of the tournament.

Canada was made to pay for spurning a number of quality scoring chances in the early going, as Sweden caught them with two quick-strike goals on what were essentially their first two shots at goal. In the 14th minute, Marie Hammarström found some space in the Canadian 18-yard box to run onto a cross from the right-hand side and her left-footed shot gave Sweden the lead.

Before Canada could take a breath, they found themselves down a second goal, as Sweden capitalized on another cross into the box just two minutes later. This time, it was the first goalscorer Hammarström who was the provider, as her cross from the left side was missed by Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who tried to come off her goal line to claim it. The ball also got past a number of red shirts before Sofia Jakobsson doubled Sweden’s advantage.

Just three minutes before halftime, Tancredi got Canada’s first, as Rhian Wilkinson provided a cross from the right side. Wilkinson masterfully made her way down the right flank before playing a neat give-and-go with Sinclair. Wilkinson then whipped the cross in and Tancredi got her right leg to it to give the Canadians momentum heading into halftime.

Canada fielded a starting XI that included several former members of the Whitecaps FC women’s team (in bold). McLeod was in goal, Rhian Wilkinson played at right fullback, Carmelina Moscato and Lauren Sesselmann were in the centre-back positions, and Marie-Eve Nault was at left fullback. Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Diana Matheson, Sinclair, Tancredi, and Jonelle Filigno made up the midfield and attack.

In the second half, Canadian head coach John Herdman replaced Foligno with Kyle (75’), Nault with Chelsea Stewart (86’), and Schmidt with Kelly Parker (88’).

Sweden had a starting line-up of Hedvig Lindahl in goal with Linda Sembrant, Emma Berglund, Sara Thunebro, and Lina Nilsson in the backline. Hammarström, Jakobsson, Nilla Fischer, Kosovare Asllani, Caroline Seger, and Lotta Schellin were in the midfield and attack.

In the second half, Swedish head coach Thomas Dennerby replaced Fischer with Lisa Dahlqvist (53’) and Asllani with Johanna Almgren (63’).

Tuesday’s match was played in front of a crowd of 12,719 at St. James' Park - home of English Premier League side Newcastle United FC. The match served as a homecoming for Herdman, who grew up a proud Newcastle United supporter. As a salute to their coach and the fans of Newcastle United, the Canadian players warmed up in black (and white) shirts and stood for the national anthems in black jackets.

As for Tancredi, her two goals were the seventh and eighth of her 2012 campaign, a new personal best. It also marked the first time since 2008 that she has scored in three consecutive matches. While she now has 22 goals in her international career, Tuesday marked the first time she scored two goals in one match.

Also of note, both Scott and Nault made their 50th international appearance. Scott, who celebrated her 25th birthday, was Canada's player of the match. Schmidt, meanwhile, made her 43rd consecutive appearance, tying Amy Walsh's mark for the third longest streak in national team history (behind Matheson's streak of 45 matches and Randee Hermus' streak of 46 matches).

In Friday’s other quarterfinal match-ups, Sweden take on France in Glasgow, Scotland; United States faces New Zealand in Newcastle upon Tyne, England; and Brazil meet world champions Japan in Cardiff, Wales.