SAO PAULO — After losing a shot at gold, the Canadian women’s soccer team is back on familiar ground — in Sao Paulo and looking for Olympic bronze.
Friday’s third-place game with No. 8 Brazil marks Canada’s fourth game of the tournament at Corinthians Arena. The locals have welcomed the 10th-ranked Canadian women, with the exception of a preliminary-round game where they enthusiastically cheered underdog Zimbabwe.
The fans will be in Brazil’s corner this time.
“We’ll be playing against a pretty passionate crowd,” said Canadian coach John Herdman. “That used to be our home stadium and it’s not any more.”
Both Canada and Brazil will have to pick themselves up after painful semifinal defeats. The Brazilians lost to No. 6 Sweden on penalties while the Canadians were beaten 2-0 to No. 2 Germany in a game in which they felt they did not show their best.
Four years ago at the London Games, Canada looked on Coventry as a home away from home. Herdman’s team won three out of four there, including a 1-0 victory over France for the bronze medal.
Home to some 19 million people, the sprawling metropolis of Sao Paulo is more than 50 times bigger than Coventry. But the Canadians feel at home in their small corner — they know the hotel, have explored the neighbouring mall and are regulars at the local Starbucks.
The Canadians, who arrived from Belo Horizonte on Wednesday, are also in the know about their opponents Friday. The two have played each other five times over the last eight months, including a pair of friendlies in Canada in June.
Brazil took three of those games to Canada’s two. But the Canadians won 1-0 last time out and beat Brazil 2-1 in the final of the Algarve Cup. Janine Beckie scored the winner in both of those matches.
Herdman, speaking earlier in the tournament, had said he hoped to meet the U.S. or Brazil in the final. His team had a bone to pick with the Americans, after losing to them in controversial fashion in the 2012 semifinal. But the Swedes ousted the U.S. in the quarter-finals.
Brazil, meanwhile, is a familiar foe.
“It’s the team this year we know most about,” Herdman said prior to the semifinals. “Without a doubt.”
The Canadian staff have “reams of tactical blueprint and tape” on the Brazilians, he added.
“We feel we’ve got our strategy right. That will be a hell of a match.”
There is also club intel from Beckie and Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash) and Josee Belanger (Orlando Pride), who play with Brazilian internationals Poliana and Andressa (Houston) and Monica (Orlando).
Herdman was more circumspect when asked about Brazil after the loss to Germany.
“Playing against Brazil any time is tough,” he said in Belo Horizonte. “We’ve had a lot of matches against them. We’ve won some, they’ve won some. They’re a hell of a team. And on their day, they can be unplayable.
“So it’ll be a tough match, but we know what we’ve got to do,” he added. “We’ve got to just put our best out there and if we do, I think we can do it — bring that medal home.”
Canada’s all-time record against Brazil is 6-7-6.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
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