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Close Just Doesn't Count for Canada

Improbable title hopes die hard as Sweden instead gets a shot with a 2-1 semifinal victory.

October 06, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. — For just a little while Sunday night, for a mere 14 minutes 11 seconds, to be precise, it seemed as if there would, after all, be a North American team in the Women's World Cup final.

Then Canada's dream disintegrated.

And so there will be an all-European championship match at the Home Depot Center on Sunday, with Sweden providing the opposition for Germany in the 10 a.m. title game.

The Swedes got there through hard, unceasing toil, battling back from a goal down to defeat Canada, 2-1, in the second of Sunday's semifinals.

But it was touch and go for a while.

For more than an hour, the Canadians and Swedes battled with everything they had, but the goals just would not come. Finally, 63:25 into the match, the first turning point came.

Canadian forward Christine Latham was fouled by Swedish defender Jane Tornqvist and referee Katriina Elovirta of Finland awarded Canada a free kick, more than 35 yards out and to the right of the Swedish net.

Midfielder Kara Lang stepped up to take it and sent a rising shot screaming toward the far post. Swedish goalkeeper Caroline Joensson dived to her right and got a touch on the ball, but it spun off her fingertips onto the post and into the net.

Suddenly, with less than 30 minutes to play, Canada's storybook tournament seemed about to add another improbable chapter.

The Canadians, coached by Even Pellerud, who led Norway to the title in the 1995 Women's World Cup, had never won a World Cup match before this championship, but they survived the first round, beat China in the quarterfinals and here they were leading Sweden in the semifinals.

The moment of fame lasted only 15 minutes.

Sweden Coach Marika Domanski Lyfors, who had been nervously pacing the sideline, all too conscious of how the United States had been undone earlier in the day by its inability to finish, made a couple of substitutions.

The moves lifted Sweden and Malin Mostrom, whose shooting had been off target most of the evening, finally got a shot on frame and tied the score 78:13 into the game. Taking a quick free kick from the energetic Victoria Svensson, Mostrom rocketed a shot that gave impressive Canadian goalkeeper Taryn Swiatek no chance.

Pellerud was left shaking his head on the sideline. Had Canada won, he had the chance to become the first coach in history to lead two countries to a World Cup title.

In the 86th minute, Sweden, which out-shot Canada, 17-6, grabbed the game winner.

Svensson fed Hanna Ljungberg, whose shot was blocked, but the rebound fell kindly for Josefine Oeqvist, one of Sweden's late substitutes, and she powered it into the back of the net off the left post.

Pellerud turned away in disgust.

"I usually count goal chances," Pellerud said. "I think Sweden had some more than we did. I can't complain about the result because of that.

"In general, my team was a little bit slower [in] thinking and acting today than against China. I don't know why."

Said Lyfors: "It could have been Canada with a bit of luck."

*

Staff writer Randy Harvey contributed to this report.

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