Football is a cruel and unforgiving mistress at times. The best teams don’t always win, what goes around doesn’t always come back around and there are reasons why football is full of clichés, purely cause in most games at least of those well know football phrases will pop up and describe a situation beautifully.
At the City of Coventry stadium we were in cliché hyper drive in what was a hot and sweaty Thursday afternoon. France rued their missed chances, what goes around came right back around for Canada and throwing it into the mixer helped the Canucks win an Olympic bronze medal.
Looking back it was quite obvious what was going to happen the longer the game stayed 0-0. The day…no, the trip hadn’t exactly gone off without a hitch, no reason to think why the team I was supporting would end up with an Olympic medal. After having to buy two sets of train tickets as one apparently “didn’t register” on crosscountry’s system, although it did take the money from my account. It was no surprise when the train from Sheffield station was delayed, only by a few minutes, but it was a sign of things to come.
After just leaving the station the train hadn’t even reached the next stop when it ground to a halt on the outskirts of Sheffield. Twenty five minutes later we were still stationary. Some sort of door problem at fault apparently. Ok so now we were back on the go, but heavily behind schedule, say goodbye to the intended connection at Birmingham New Street to Coventry. With the 20 minute transfer to the stadium, ticket office and Olympic bomb squad bag search to go I wasn’t exactly enjoying my little jaunt to the midlands.
The next train came 15 minutes after I arrived at Birmingham but at this point I was easily 30 minutes behind schedule. Luckily the train to Coventry pulled in at exactly the right time and the shuttle bus was just ready for setting off in the baking Coventry sunshine. Sweaty bus = bad. This would be my only event of the London 2012 Olympics and I must say for a 30-year old man I was quite excited, so when the bus took a right at a roundabout and in perfect cinematic fashion there was the stadium decked in all the Olympic regalia. Beautiful!
In all fairness to the Olympic staff the bag check was an absolute breeze, with a laptop and camera in my bag I thought this would take ages, but it was over in minutes and I was off on a trek around the stadium to the ticket office, with 25 minutes to kick-off it would be close. 10 minutes tops in the queue, a very helpful Scottish volunteer was very impressed with my address being “Freedom Road” and was on course for making it just in time. Seat found and bum planted, and out came the teams. Not the most raucous rendition of La Marseillais but it was nice to hear it sung live for the first time.
The Jenny Palmqvist referee blew her whistle and we were underway, and then it happened, the sight that banished all the memories of a stressful morning. Louisa Necib, the beautiful and amazingly talented member of the French national side that I was most excited to seeing. With the sun glowing off the highlights in her dark hair she was magnificent. All throughout the first half she was the player making the French tick, everything was through Necib, gliding left and right, helping both Elodie Thomis and Gaetane Thiney on the flanks, bridging the gap between defence and attack, she was easily the best player on the pitch.
Canada struggled to get their game going at any point in the entire match. France pressed high up the pitch and made it very difficult for the Canadians to put more than three or four passes together. As good as France played in defence they didn’t quite click in the final third during the first 45 minutes. Thomis had a bit of a shocker down the right hand side Marie-Eve Nault had her in her back pocket for most of the half, only once or twice did she get in-behind the Canadian backline. With France unable to break down the resolute Canadian defence the first half inevitably finished goalless.
Half-time and chance to get an ice cold beer, and a scolding hot steak pie, it’s what football was made for, and then to give a big two fingers up to Seb Coe and the Olympic ticket system and decided to wander down to the other side of the stadium and watch France attack the other goal. Andrew 1 Seb Coe 0.
Now the game really picked up pace, the French attack, mostly coming down the left flank with Thiney was really causing problems, in quick succession both the post and cross bar were rattled, not as much as the Canadian defence though. Chances came and went and still the score remained level. The Bruno Bini made the change to try and win this game, Eugenie Le Sommer came on for Marie-Laure Delie and this should have been his masterstroke. She must have had 4/5 really good chances, a back post header that floated inches wide probably the best of the bunch.
In what was a very pro-Canada crowd I started to get this feeling that France would come to rue those missed chances, and although Canada had shown nothing in 70+ minutes that had passed, you just knew they would get one big chance. How many times have we seen it throughout the years?
Two additional minutes were announced to the crowd and Canada won a corner. The crowd began to cheer, the sort of hand clap you get before an attempt at the long jump started. They were willing Canada on, could they lift them for just one last time. Canada attacked again, the France looked worried, the ball broke to Sophie Schmidt, her shot was blocked and Diana Matheson stood all alone 12 yards out. She wasn’t going to miss. Amazing scenes of elation for the Canadians, despair and heartbreak for the French. It was near on the last kick of the game.
You look back at Canada’s 4-3 defeat against the USA in the semi-final losing that game in the 122nd minute. Was this karma for all the effort they put into that performance. It seemed that way. Absolute despair for the French side and with reason to be upset, how, with 25 shots on goal you only get four on target is quite a shocking stat. Canada had one on target, and four shots overall.
Now as I sit waiting for the man with the drinks trolley my mind drifts to Eugenie Le Sommer, how many drinks will it take tonight to stop her waking up in a cold sweat. In this game, you have to take your chances.