For 90 minutes, it looked like John Herdman's guarantee of a victory wouldn't come true. Following their controversial semifinal loss to the U.S., the Canadian women's soccer team looked physically and mentally tired against a tough French squad in Thursday's bronze-medal match, and although they defended well, France had an incredible amount of chances to take the lead. The Canadians showed incredible dedication and heart to hang in there, though, and it all paid off in the final moments of the match when Sophie Schmidt's deflected shot fell to Diana Matheson, who fired home a stoppage-time goal to give the Canadians a 1-0 victory and the bronze medal. It was the country's first medal in a traditional team sport at the Summer Games since 1936, and it was a remarkable end to one of these Games' best Canadian stories.
[Photos: Canada's bronze-medal victory]
Matheson told CTV after the match that she and her teammates were confident heading into this, and that confidence paid off.
"It feels amazing," she said. "We felt as a group we were going to earn this and we did in the last minute."
Matheson's already looking forward to Canada's hosting of the 2015 Women's World Cup, and said this could be a pivotal moment that boosts Canadian soccer's profile in advance of that tournament.
"We wanted to leave a legacy for Canadian soccer, and we did for 2015."
Christine Sinclair said Thursday's test was a tough one, but it shows the Canadian team's quality.
[Photos: Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair]
"We battled through exhaustion, and we did the job."
The victory's a crucial one for the Canadians, as it fulfils Herdman's stated goal of a podium finish, which was always somewhat ambitious. This shows that this team really can play with the world's best, not just talk about it. It also means that they leave this tournament with a tangible victory, not just a moral one from their strong performance against the U.S., and it means they leave on a high note. Herdman said Canada's win shows the importance of fighting all the way through.
"I just hope young kids out there see this and never give up, never give up," he said. "You see what commitment and resilience will do for you."
More London Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Sports Canada:
• Sinclair emerges as Canada's Olympic hero
• 2015 Women's World Cup could benefit from soccer fiasco
• Norwegian referee's Olympics are over