Canadian women get lucky in their Olympic soccer matchup, will face lower-ranked Brits

The Canadian women's soccer team didn't get the result they needed to secure second place in their group, but the 2-2 draw they came up with against Sweden may have worked out even better. The single point gained from that put Canada in a very risky spot, as it set up a potential quarterfinal matchup with the fearsome top-ranked Americans. Results elsewhere went spectacularly well for the Canadians, though, as New Zealand's 3-1 win over Cameroon, the North Koreans' 1-0 loss to the U.S. and Great Britain's 1-0 upset of Brazil gave Canada an extremely favourable quarterfinal matchup against the British (Friday, 2:30 p.m. Eastern). While there will certainly be a large local crowd supporting the U.K. women, the fact remains that the Brits are one of only two teams remaining in the Olympic tournament who are lower than Canada in the FIFA world rankings. Achieving only a draw against Sweden could have set up a ridiculously tough matchup against the U.S. or a formidable one against Brazil, but it's worked out even better for Canada than a victory might have.

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In many ways, this is the best result the Canadians could have hoped for. Canada was ranked seventh in the world heading into these Olympics, but five of the six teams ahead of them (second-ranked Germany didn't qualify) have advanced to the quarterfinals, and the Canadians could have drawn the top-ranked Americans, the fifth-ranked Brazilians or the sixth-ranked French. The Brits aren't ranked by FIFA, as England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete separately in regular international play, but the core of this team is the ninth-ranked English squad. The only lower-ranked team remaining is 23rd-ranked New Zealand, and Canada didn't have a shot at facing them. Sure, this squad's slightly different than the English national team, but it's not dramatically so; it has two Scottish players and 16 English players. Canada's had plenty of success against England, too, including a 2-0 win in the Cyprus tournament in 2011. The British fans (70,584 turned out for the game against Brazil, a record for a women's game in England) will add to the challenge, certainly, but this still looks like the easiest quarterfinal matchup the Canadians could have hoped for by far.

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That doesn't retroactively justify Canada achieving only a tie against Sweden. These Swedes looked quite beatable Tuesday, and the Canadians likely would have won if not for conceding two poor early goals. Their solid play down the stretch doesn't excuse a poor start. A draw may have been enough to ensure they'd go through as one of the best third-place teams (as things turned out, they'd have gone through with even a modest loss), but it had the potential to deliver a horrible matchup against the U.S., and that easily could have happened if results elsewhere had gone slightly differently. Canada got lucky here, though, and they're now faced with a favourable quarterfinal matchup. Win that and they'll grab a semifinal berth and an assured chance to play for either gold or bronze. It hasn't been an ideal tournament for Canada in terms of their results or their placing in their group, but it's worked out remarkably well despite that. We'll see if they can take advantage of their luck Friday.

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