• Thursday Aug 02, 2012

    US, Canada hope for OLY semifinal clash

    By Michael Lewis


    NEWCASTLE, England -- The United States and Canada find themselves on a collision course to meet in the semifinals of the Olympic women's soccer tournament.

    First, they both have to get past a couple of big obstacles.

    The Americans will meet New Zealand in one quarterfinal match Newcastle, England, on Friday, while the Canadians will take on Britain in Coventry the same day.

    The last time The United States played New Zealand, the Americans needed two goals by Alex Morgan in the 88th and 93rd minutes to down the Kiwis 2-1 in Frisco, Texas, on February 11.

    Because of the tournament format, teams reaching the medal round must play six games in 16 days with 18 players.

    In its 1-0 win over North Korea on Tuesday, for example, the United States was subdued in the second half after a dynamic performance in the opening 45 minutes.

    "We wanted to save our legs because the next game is going to be really important," said striker Abby Wambach, who scored a goal in each of the team's three first-round games. "But it's always good to keep the momentum going with a win."

    The United States, which has three gold medals and a silver in its four previous Olympic appearances, finished the group stage with three victories for the first time. But it must remain perfect in three more to win another title.

    "It's now or never - lose and you go home," Wambach said. "This is what it is all about. We came here for the gold medal and that's what we want to go home with."

    The Canadians' task will be more difficult, facing the host Britons buoyed by large, enthusiastic crowds. In its final group match at Wembley Stadium in London on Tuesday, Britain surprised Brazil 1-0 in front of 70,584 fans, a British record for women's soccer.

    Yet, Canada could have faced Brazil, and coach John Herdman feels he got the team he wanted to play.

    "We played France in the Cyprus Cup and were beaten 2-0. Well beaten," he told Canada.com. "We know how strong the States are ... And if you look at Team GB, they haven't conceded a goal this entire tournament. That's spectacular. They're a strong, well-organized side. But, having said that, being honest, I think if we'd had our choice among those teams you mentioned it would've been Brazil or Team GB. And we got one of them."

    Melissa Tancredi has been Canada's hero with a tournament-best four goals, including two to rally her side to a 2-2 draw with Sweden - the last in the 84th minute -- on Tuesday that secured a quarterfinal berth.

    "It showed the spirit in this team," Tancredi said. "This team just never gives up. It's our Olympic spirit. We gave them a 2-0 lead, but we knew we could do it and had the time.

    "It's another step on the road for us. It's what we wanted and we're on our way, but this is just one stop on the journey."

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