KASHIMA, Japan - An overriding feeling of confidence permeated the Canadian women's soccer players as they gathered on the steamy pitch shortly after their Group E finale on Tuesday at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium.
Giving up a late own goal in a 1-1 draw with Britain was slightly deflating, but a solid run in group play had the team looking forward to the knockout stage.
"We've gone undefeated and you can't scoff at that at an Olympic Games," said Canada coach Bev Priestman.
With both teams resting key players with an eye on the upcoming quarterfinals, the matchup essentially served as a tune-up. A dry first half with few offensive chances changed significantly after the break.
Adriana Leon scored in the 55th minute for Canada after a strong run down the wing by Ashley Lawrence, who sent a low cross through a maze of players. Leon one-timed the ball into the top corner.
Canada (1-0-2) could have easily been 3-0-0 in group play. However, a late goal proved costly in a 1-1 tournament opener against host Japan and Britain would use the same formula.
In the 85th minute, Caroline Weir's shot from distance deflected off the arm of Nichelle Prince and into the Canadian net past a wrong-footed Stephanie Labbe.
Eighth-ranked Canada, which entered play as a virtual lock to advance, later learned that it will face No. 7 Brazil in the quarterfinals Friday at Miyagi Stadium.
"I think this team keeps growing each game," Labbe said. "We've faced adversity in different games with different things. I'm excited for the next game for sure."
Group winner Britain (2-0-1), which is unranked as it can draw players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will play No. 9 Australia.
The top-ranked United States meets the fourth-ranked Dutch side and No. 5 Sweden will take on No. 10 Japan. The final is set for Aug. 6 at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.
Canadian captain Christine Sinclair was given the night off as Priestman made seven changes to her starting 11 from the squad that beat Chile 2-1 on Saturday.
Defender Kadeisha Buchanan wore the captain's armband while Labbe got the start in net after suffering a rib injury in the tournament opener.
Both teams played their first two matches indoors at the Sapporo Dome before travelling to Kashima, about a two-hour drive from Tokyo.
With the thumping bass line of the White Stripes hit "Seven Nation Army" blaring throughout the near-empty stadium, Sinclair helped lead the cheers from the entryway as the Canadian side walked onto the field.
Mist hung in the air on a warm, muggy evening at the regular home of the Kashima Antlers of the Japan Professional Football League.
Evelyne Viens, given her first start of the tournament, made her presence felt in the second minute with Canada's best chance of the half.
Her strike from just outside the box forced goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck to fully extend but just missed the target. Britain's Rachel Daly was sent in alone later in the half but Lawrence made a nice sliding block to deflect it out of play.
Both teams pressed more in the second half and the pace improved. Britain nearly pulled even in the 69th minute but Weir's shot from a tight angle hit the crossbar and the post before being cleared.
Britain outshot Canada 10-5 and had a 2-1 edge in shots on target. Britain had 59 per cent of possession to 41 per cent for Canada.
Canada won bronze at the 2012 Games in London and finished third again four years later in Rio. The team is looking for a medal upgrade this time around.
"Overall (I'm) happy, it's just a shame that we let it get away from us and that happened as well earlier in the group stage," Priestman said. "But overall I think we're really comfortable with where we're at.
"We rested some legs and we're ready to go."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.