Canada gained three big points in their second match at the London 2012 Women's Olympic Football Tournament, with former Vancouver Whitecaps FC strikers Melissa Tancredi and Christine Sinclair leading the way to a 3-0 win over South Africa in Coventry, England, on Saturday.
Canada remains in third place in Group F, with only one match remaining in the group phase, setting the stage for an all-important match against Sweden on Tuesday.
"We said winning was the only option today," said Canadian head coach John Herdman. "We hopefully got what we needed. We could have had more, but that's soccer sometimes."
Sweden and Japan remain atop Group F with four points each following a goalless draw on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Canada will face Sweden (6:30 a.m. PT), while South Africa will face Japan on the last day of the group phase. Canada's match will be played in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
A win over Sweden would be good enough for Canada to secure passage to the knock-out stages as one of the top-two finishers in Group F. Should Canada draw or lose, they would have to rely on qualifying for the quarterfinals as one of the top two third-place finishers in overall group play.
Canada were made to sweat a little bit, but Sinclair’s 138th and 139th career goals for her country in the second half gave the Canadians some breathing room, as they got their first win at London 2012 with a three-goal victory over South Africa at the City of Coventry Stadium.
Tancredi’s early goal seemed to indicate that it would be an easy day for the Canadians, but South Africa caused some trouble for Canada and the game was still in doubt into the second half.
Tancredi opened the scoring in the seventh minute with her second goal in as many games. Tancredi was set up on a nice cut-back pass from Diana Matheson, who was on the right side. Tancredi got to it first and put the ball home at the far post.
The South Africans started brighter in the second half, but Canada settled and in the 58th minute, Lauren Sesselmann crossed the ball from the left side and Sinclair rose to win the header. Her original header went off the crossbar and looked like it bounced over the goal line. While that goal wasn’t given originally, Sinclair smartly followed the ball in and emphatically smashed it over the goal line on the rebound.
Sinclair added her second goal in the 86th minute. She was played in through the South African defenders and sped past them before placing her low shot past the onrushing South African goalkeeper Thokozile Mndaweni and inside the right post.
The win for Canada sets up a likely battle against Sweden for the all-important second place position in Group F on Tuesday in the North East of England.
South Africa's XI featured Thokozile Mndaweni in goal, Amanda Sister, Janine van Wyk, Zamandosi Cele, and Refiloe Jane in defence. Kylie Louw, Amanda Dlamini, Gabisile Hlumbane, and Mpumi Nyandeni played in midfield, and Portia Modise and Andisiwe Mgcoyi were in the attack.
In the second half, South African head coach Joseph Mkhonza replaced Mgcoyi with Sanah Mollo on 69 minutes.
Canada's XI featured several former Whitecaps FC players (in bold). Karina LeBlanc played in goal, Rhian Wilkinson was at right fullback, Carmelina Moscato and Robyn Gayle at centre back, Lauren Sesselmann at left fullback, and Kaylyn Kyle, Diana Matheson, Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Sinclair, and Tancredi from midfield up through to the attack.
In the second half, Canadian coach John Herdman replaced Gayle with Chelsea Stewart (68’), Kyle with Jonelle Filigno (74’) and Tancredi with Brittany Timko (87’).