Canada goes for bronze

On the heels of a heartbreaking semifinal defeat that captivated a nation, the Canadian women’s national team will go for bronze bright and early on Thursday morning - 5 a.m. PT on CTV - at the City of Coventry Stadium in Coventry, England.

A win against France would mark the first time in Olympic history Canada has claimed a medal in women’s soccer. It would also be Canada’s first traditional team sports medal at the Summer Games since 1936.

But regardless of the result against France, the Canadian women’s national team ought to be proud of what they have accomplished in these 2012 Olympic Games.

Canada came into the tournament as the seventh-best women’s team in the world, but that ranking that will surely improve after their impressive showing thus far.

After falling just short to third-ranked Japan in their tournament opener, the Red and White cruised to a 3-0 victory over South Africa before claiming a hard-fought 2-2 draw with fourth-ranked Sweden to earn a berth in the quarterfinals.

Playing in front of a crowd of nearly 30,000, the Canadians then upset hosts Great Britain with a convincing 2-0 victory - setting up a monumental showdown with the top-ranked United States.

Former Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Christine Sinclair scored three world-class goals and the Canadians came within seconds of advancing to penalty kicks, but a late American marker stunned the nation and ended Canada’s gold medal dreams.

Although the 4-3 loss was overshadowed by controversy, it was a performance for the ages for the Canadians and one that will do wonders for women’s soccer in the country.

If there was ever any doubt, Canada has established itself as one of the premier women’s teams in the world, and many former Whitecaps FC stars played a big part in that.

All 11 of Canada’s goals in this tournament have come from former Whitecaps FC players, and Sinclair leads the way with six tallies.  

Sinclair, whose historic three-goal effort against the Americans has catapulted her into national hero status, led Whitecaps FC to a 2006 W-League title at Swangard Stadium. The Burnaby, BC, native did not have much to prove coming into the tournament, but she has cemented her status as one of the greatest women’s players to ever play the game.

Slotting in behind Sinclair is fellow striker Melissa Tancredi, who has an impressive four goals to show for. The “Tank,” as she is known by teammates and fans, led Whitecaps FC to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the W-League Final Four back in 2010.

The 2012 Olympic Games have also served as a coming out party for former Whitecaps FC players Desiree Scott, a feisty holding midfielder, and Jonelle Filigno, a speedy striker who scored in Canada’s quarterfinal victory over Great Britain.

Unfortunately for Canada, winning a gold medal is no longer in the cards, but as head coach John Herdman told reporters after Monday’s semifinal, “they’ve come here to see the flag rise...we’ll take a medal from this tournament.”

And by doing so, they would secure a spot in the history books. Whether or not that happens, they have already done a nation proud.