The City of Coventry Stadium was fraught with nervous energy as the Canadian and French football teams arrived to fight for the Olympic bronze medal today. French coach Bruno Bini has said that France didn't come to London for "a chocolate medal," but clearly, neither did the Canucks. Canada played a knock-down, drag-out, brilliant semifinal game against the United States on Monday, losing by a point in double overtime. (I may bleed red, white and blue, but Canada's Christine Sinclair is my new number one girl crush after that crazy hat trick. Swoon!)
Sinclair got salty after the semifinal, mouthing off out to the press about Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen's questionable calls -- enough so that FIFA considered suspending the top player. That notion's been temporarily shelved, though, while FIFA continues its investigation. The bronze medal match proceeded as planned today, with Canada and France duking it out for that last remaining medal.
Or, at least, they should have been duking it out. Instead, Canada and France arrived fatigued to the field, giving a fraction of the vitality they put into fighting the US. It seems like both teams wanted to beat the US more than they want to beat each other. It felt like they were playing underwater during that first, quiet half of the game. No one scored. The crowd was nonplussed.
In the second half, the players picked up the pace somewhat. France made several solid attempts on the Canadian goal, but the balls deflected off the goal post; France just couldn't score. The minutes ticked by without a goal. I could almost hear sports fans around the world flipping through their IKEA catalogues and checking Twitter feeds on their smartphones. The game was starting to feel interminable. At the 90-minute mark, the score was still 0-0, prompting talk of overtime and even more of this slow, dull play.
Thankfully, several minutes were added to the game, giving Canada's Diana Matheson enough time to shoot the ball into the net and win the game -- and the bronze medal -- for her team. The Canadian flags were flying in the stands after that, as all of Coventry Stadium seemed to realize the game was won. How could France bounce back after that? With just 30 seconds left on the clock, they couldn't.
Matheson kissed the maple leaf on her jersey with joy. Her teammates piled around her for a group hug. It may have been a long, slow match, but it had a very sweet conclusion for Canada. The Canadians will join Japan and the US on the medal podium to accept the bronze. Now, it's all a matter of who will take silver and who will win the gold.Got Olympics fever? Find the events faster, wherever you go, with the "2012 Olympics" listings on our free mobile app, the BuddyTV Guide!Sarah WatsonContributing Writer(Image courtesy of NBC)