- Associated Press - Friday, August 6, 2021

Julia Grosso converted her kick from the spot and Canada clinched the Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer by winning a penalty shootout 3-2 against Sweden after Friday’s final ended in a 1-1 draw.

It was the first major tournament title for the Canadians, who were the bronze medalists at London in 2012 and in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.

Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe stopped Jonna Andersson to make way for Grosso, a 20-year-old player for the University of Texas, who beat Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.

It was the second straight silver medal for the Swedes, who were also aiming for their first title in a major tournament, after falling 2-1 to Germany at Rio in 2016.

Stina Blackstenius gave Sweden the lead in the 34th minute, but Jessie Fleming equalized with a penalty kick in the 67th to tie it for Canada and the game went to extra time.

Sweden had won every match going into the final, opening the tournament with a statement-making 3-0 victory over the United States. Blackstenius had a pair of goals against the Americans.

The Swedes advanced to the gold-medal match with a 1-0 victory over Australia, which finished in fourth place after falling to the United States 4-3 Thursday night in Kashima.

Canada coach Bev Priestman has said the target for this Olympics was to change the color of the medal, which the Canadians were assured of doing after their 1-0 victory over the United States in the semifinals. It was Canada‘s first victory over their North American rivals since 2001.

Canada had advanced to the semifinals 4-3 on penalties after a scoreless draw with Brazil.

The breakthrough win for Canada came in what could be the last major tournament for Christine Sinclair, the team’s 38-year-old captain. She has 187 international goals, more than any other player, male or female.

The final was originally scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at the Olympic Stadium, but concerns about the heat - the forecast called for temperatures in the upper 90s at game time - forced organizers to move the game to 9 p.m. at Yokohama International Stadium.

Canada and Sweden both made requests to move the match out of concern for player safety. The request was only granted late Thursday, a move made easier because coronavirus restrictions kept fans away.

Sweden took an early advantage when Blackstenius’ shot off a cross from Kosovare Asllani appeared to glance off Canada‘s Gilles before sailing past Labbe’s outstretched arms in the 34th.

Blackstenius has a national-team best seven career goals in the Olympics, including five in Japan. She scored twice in Sweden‘s victory over the U.S. to open the tournament.

Sinclair appealed for a penalty kick after Amanda Ilestedt clipped her with her left foot from behind. After a VAR review, Canada was awarded the penalty and Fleming duly made it 1-1.

Sweden had a chance to go ahead late in regulation but Kadeisha Buchanan got to Asllani’s shot just in time in the 89th.

Lina Hurtig let out a scream, heard throughout the empty stadium in the 111th minute, when she missed just wide with a header off a corner from Asllani.

Fleming made Canada’s first kick in the shootout, but Ashley Lawrence, Vanessa Gillies and Adriana Leon all failed to convert.

Asllani hit the post with Sweden’s first kick, and Nathalie Bjorn and Olivia Schough built a 2-1 Sweden lead. Anna Anvegard’s shot was saved by Labbe and, with a chance to win the gold, Caroline Seger sent her kick over the crossbar.

Canada‘s Deanne Rose made it 2-2 before Andersson’s sixth kick for Sweden was saved by Labbe, who dived to her left.

The teams met in the round of 16 at the 2019 World Cup in France with the Sweden winning 1-0. Canada has not beaten the Swedes since a 1-0 victory in a 2017 friendly.


More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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