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Canada's Women Win Soccer Gold, Outlasting Sweden In Penalty Kicks

Julia Grosso clinched a penalty shoot-out victory for Canada in the Tokyo Olympics, as the team took the gold medal over Sweden at International Stadium Yokohama.
Tiziana Fabi
AFP via Getty Images
Julia Grosso clinched a penalty shoot-out victory for Canada in the Tokyo Olympics, as the team took the gold medal over Sweden at International Stadium Yokohama.

Canada is celebrating and Sweden is mourning after their women's soccer teams took their gold-medal match past regulation, through extra time and into a wildly nerve-wracking shootout Friday in the Tokyo Olympics.

The shootout had it all: Both teams missed crucial shots, and the goalkeepers made huge saves. And on the final attempt, 20-year-old midfielder Julia Grosso blasted a low shot that Swedish goalie Hedvig Lindahl managed to get a glove on — but could not stop, as the ball settled into the back of the net.

Euphoric Canadian players rushed toward Grosso on the pitch at International Stadium Yokohama as the Swedish team reconciled itself with a second consecutive silver finish. For Canada, it's a long-awaited breakthrough: The team won bronze in both Rio de Janeiro and London.

The shootout had brought each team prime chances to clinch the gold. Canada seized the early momentum, with Jessie Fleming nailing her team's first attempt after Kosovare Asllani's strike hit the post. But then the Swedes notched two straight goals, while Ashley Lawrence's shot was saved and Vanessa Gilles' attempt hit the crossbar.

Canadian goalie Stephanie Labbé made a crucial save — and then Sweden's veteran captain, Caroline Seger, missed badly, skying her shot over the net.

With Canada's hopes on the line, Deanne Rose stepped to the mark and lifted a beautiful goal into the top right corner of the net. Labbé then followed with another clutch save.

That set up Grosso, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, who plays for the University of Texas, to win the shootout 3-2 and secure Canada's first gold medal in women's soccer.

Both Grosso and Rose came into the game after the first half as Canadian coach Bev Priestman adjusted her lineup.

Sweden jumped out to a 1-0 lead late in the first half. However, Canada was able to equalize on a penalty kick in the second after Christine Sinclair went down on a close call in the penalty area that required video review. The two sides showed flashes of inspired play as they tried to break the tie, but as regulation ended and they played through two periods of extra time, tension and fatigue seemed to set in.

Sweden lost despite having an edge in possession — 54% to Canada's 46% — and taking 24 shots overall. Sweden also took 14 corner kicks, compared with five for Canada.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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