Given that Canadian women's soccer coach John Herdman is an Englishman, no one's going to be calling him "Broadway John" any time soon, but his comments following the Canadians' crushing, controversial 4-3 loss to the U.S. in the semifinals Monday were rather reminiscent of Joe Namath's famous pre-Super Bowl III guarantee. Here's what Herdman had to say about how his team's approaching the bronze-medal match with France (8 a.m. Eastern, Thursday) after the loss against the Americans, in a quote distributed by the Canadian Olympic Committee's media office:
"They've come to see the flag rise. That's the job. They came here for that and the job is not finished. They'll be disappointed tonight because it won't be gold or silver, but we'll take a medal from this tournament."
It's not quite "We're gonna win the game. I guarantee it," but it's still a pretty bold statement. Herdman's no stranger to those, though; following January's qualifying tournament, he ambitiously proclaimed that the goal in these Games was a medal, saying "London is calling, and we're aiming for the podium." It's worth remembering that although that comment may not look crazy in hindsight, with Canada making it to the semifinals and playing for a medal, they entered this tournament as the seventh-ranked team in the world and the sixth-ranked team in this competition. There was always a chance they could get to a medal game if the draw broke in their favour, and it certainly did that (although a second-place finish in the pool would have avoided the U.S. until the gold-medal game), but Herdman's pre-Games podium expectations were pretty ambitious. Now that they have a real shot at meeting those, he's upping the ante even further by guaranteeing a victory in this game.
On one hand, this isn't a ridiculous prediction, and Canada's nowhere near as heavy of an underdog as Namath's Jets were against the Colts. The Canadians have played very well in the knockout stages of this tournament, delivering a dominant 2-0 victory over the home Brits in a must-win quarterfinal, and the match against the U.S. might be the best game this team's played since their last win over the Americans in 2001. For 128 minutes, the Canadians hung with the top-ranked Americans despite a ref they felt was against them, and they came achingly close to victory, providing Canada with perhaps the moment and the hero of these Games along the way. If they play like that Thursday, it's hard to see anyone keeping them from the podium.
However, France poses a difficult task. The French are ranked sixth in the world, one spot above Canada, and they've been very impressive at these Games. They finished second in Group G behind only the U.S., and put up a solid fight against the Americans, losing 4-2. In the elimination stages, they downed fourth-ranked Sweden in the quarterfinals and narrowly lost 2-1 to Women's World Cup champions Japan earlier Monday. They certainly aren't going to make it easy for the Canadians to claim Canada's first medal in a traditional team sport at the Summer Olympics since 1936. Herdman's made his bold guarantee, though, so we'll see if it pays off the way Namath's did.