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Former U of M Bison wins Olympic bronze in women's soccer

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COVENTRY, England - Former University of Manitoba Bison Desiree Scott has won an Olympic bronze medal.

The Winnipeg native is a member of the Canadian women’s soccer team that scored a 1-0 victory over France in bronze medal match at London 2012 Summer Olympics

Diana Matheson scored in the 92nd minute to give the Canadians the bronze.

It was Scott’s sixth consecutive match at the Olympics and she played every minute for Canada during the London Games. Scott played an integral role as she saved a sure France goal with her knee on the Canadian goal line at the 70th minute to preserve a tie game at the time. She has now made 53 appearances with Team Canada over her career.

The bronze marks the country’s first Summer Games medal in a traditional team sport since a silver in men’s basketball in 1936.

Matheson, the five-foot midfielder from Oakville, Ont., fired a long shot past France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi to lift the Canadians over a stunned French side that had been hammering Canada’s net all game long.

The victory ended an historic run for the Canadians, who were playing in the medal round for the first time after finishing eighth in their Olympic debut four years ago in Beijing.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a team that was in tatters at this time last year after a last-place finish at the World Cup that led to the hiring of coach John Herdman.

France was the team that ousted Canada from the World Cup with a 4-0 thrashing, and the players vowed they would never feel that way again.

The Canadians had the gold-medal game in their sights but lost a heart-breaker to the Americans in the semifinal — a controversial 4-3 loss that took 123 minutes to decide and left the threat of FIFA sanctions hanging over the Canadian squad.

FIFA is investigating "incidents that occurred" following the drama-filled game that captain Christine Sinclair and her teammates angrily said at the time they believed was decided by the officials.

Sinclair scored a hat trick in the semis, setting the Olympic women’s record for tournament goals scored with six.

American Abby Wambach — with five goals — had a chance to top that later Thursday in the gold-medal game versus Japan.

The semifinal, under blue skies at City of Coventry Stadium, lacked the power and speed of the semifinal, the residual effects no doubt of a long tournament and semifinal that went to extra time.

Christine Sinclair had an excellent chance for Canada in the 15th minute but launched a pass from Rhian Wilkinson over the net. The star striker had another chance minutes later, getting loose for a breakaway before mishandling the ball in the box.

The French took advantage of a sagging Canadian squad in the second half, running roughshod over Canada’s back line. The French had several excellent scoring chances in a span of a few minutes in the second half — Gaetane Thiney banged a shot off the post, Elodie Thomis hit the cross, then midfielder Scott had to lunge to save a shot on the goal-line off a France corner kick.

The Canadians split its first two games of the Olympics, then laid down three of its finest performances in the team’s history — a come-from-behind 2-2 tie with Sweden, a clean-sheet victory over Great Britain and then the drama-filled loss to the Americans that ended their hopes for gold.

Les Bleues — whose roster includes 11 players of Olympique Lyonnais, winners of the 2011 UEFA Women’s Champions League — had a strong run through the tournament. The French narrowly missed the gold-medal game in a 2-1 loss semifinal loss to Japan — a game that could have drawn level but for a missed France penalty.

The 32,609-seat City of Coventry Stadium — normally home to Coventry City Sky Blues — was about three-quarters full, and it was obvious by the cheers that the locals had adopted the Canadian side.

Attendance at the Olympic women’s tournament has averaged about 24,000 a game.

-- with files from the Winnipeg Free Press

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