In their first knockout game at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Abbotsford’s Sophie Schmidt and Canada’s Women’s National Soccer Team did just enough to advance to the quarterfinals with a nervy 1-0 victory over Switzerland.
Josee Belanger’s goal in the 51st minute was all the offence Canada needed to down the Swiss in front of 53,855 Canadian fans at BC Place in Vancouver.
Despite picking up an injury late in Canada’s final group stage game, Schmidt played the full 90 in Canada’s midfield and helped her team control the majority of the ball.
That’s not to say the game wasn’t without its nervous moments.
The Swiss had several chances but Canadian keeper Erin McLeod stood tall, snatching countless crosses from the waiting heads of the opposition and making a crucial save in the 77th minute to preserve Canada’s lead.
After a scoreless first half, Canada upped the pressure to start the second 45. Several scoring chances later, the ball found its way to Josee Belanger just 10 yards from goal. The Canadian forward made no mistake, side-footing into the left corner of the net.
The goal elicited a mighty roar from the partisan crowd, which erupted every time the ball was sent into the vicinity of the Swiss goal.
McLeod, who was named player of the game, said afterwards that the win was “huge” for Canada’s ambitions to reach the final. “There have been a lot of upsets already,” she said.
But while the crowd may have been feeling the nerves as the game entered the second half scoreless, McLeod said she and her teammates were calm.
“I don’t think it was excruciating at all,” she said. “I enjoyed every moment of it. You’re always relieved when your team scores, but I thought we got better and better as time went on.”
Canadian coach John Herdman said the day was “surreal” for his players.
“I’m really impressed with the support at BC Place,” he said. “That was brilliant today.”
Watch abbynews.com and check Wednesday’s paper for more coverage.