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USWNT stunned by Canada in semifinals at Tokyo Olympics, will play for bronze medal

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KASHIMA, Japan — Canada got the best of the U.S. women when it really mattered.

The Canadians beat the USWNT for the first time since 2001 on Monday, and only fourth time in history, 1-0 on a penalty kick by Jessie Fleming in the 75th minute. U.S. goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, pressed into service after Alyssa Naeher left in the 30th with a knee injury, guessed the right side but couldn’t make the stop.

Fleming sprinted toward her bench and slid on her knees as the rest of the Canadians erupted in celebration.

The Americans had a chance to tie it in the 86th on a thunderous header from close range by Carli Lloyd. But it banged off the crossbar and the reigning World Cup champions couldn’t challenge again.

When the final whistled sounded, Lloyd crouched on her knees and buried her head in her hands as the Canadians celebrated.

"It was terrible. Not our best game," said Megan Rapinoe. "Not our best tournament. We didn't have it today. Too many errors."

Canada will play either Sweden or Australia for the gold medal Friday. The USWNT will play the other team Thursday for the bronze medal.

"Now we have to look ahead to the bronze medal game," said Alex Morgan. "I felt like a lot of the game, we dominated possession. But we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net."

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Christen Press, left, and Lindsay Horan console each other after the U.S. lost to Canada in the semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics.
Christen Press, left, and Lindsay Horan console each other after the U.S. lost to Canada in the semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Canada is the USWNT’s most frequent opponent, with Monday’s game the 62nd between the neighbors. But it cannot really be called a rivalry, given its lopsidedness. The Americans had won 51 of the previous games, Canada just three.

Its last win came back in 2001, when Lloyd was still a teenager.

But the Canadians are much improved in recent years, and they’ve been nursing a grudge since the semifinal at the 2012 Olympics. The Americans won in the dying seconds of overtime on a header by Alex Morgan, but the game might not even have gotten to that point if not for some gamesmanship by Abby Wambach.

The Americans felt Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was holding the ball a second or two too long in an effort to slow the game down, so Wambach started counting out loud to call referee Christiana Pedersen’s attention to it. It worked. In the 78th minute, McLeod was whistled for time wasting after holding the ball for more than the allowed six seconds; estimates were it was anywhere from eight to 11 seconds.

Megan Rapinoe’s free kick went off a Canadian player’s arm for a handball, and Wambach converted the penalty to tie the game.

The Americans were dealt a blow in the 20th minute, when Naeher landed awkwardly on her right knee after going up in the air for a ball. Trainers worked on her for several minutes, and she came back into the game after hopping on one leg to test her knee.

But she pulled up after a goal kick and signaled she needed to leave. She was replaced by Franch, who had made just six previous appearances for the USWNT.

“I knew it wasn’t good because she doesn’t go down and stay down like that," Lloyd said. "She was trying to be tough in the moment, but as soon as she kicked that ball you know it wasn’t right.”

Franch was not really tested, and it looked as if the Americans might give her a cushion midway through the second half with three shots on goal in less than five minutes. Lloyd one-timed a rocket that Labbe punched over the crossbar in the 65th.

Three minutes later, she was tested again, this time on Julie Ertz’s header off a corner kick that Labbe punched over the bar. Shortly after, Lindsey Horan had a shot on a header, but it went right into Labbe’s hands.

But the Americans couldn’t connect. The Canadians needed just one break, and they got it on Davidson’s penalty.

Thursday's bronze medal game could be the last at a major international tournament for several of the Americans' biggest names over the years, including the 39-year-old Lloyd.

“This is my eighth tournament. They’ve all been different. They’ve all be different storylines. They’ve all started and finished in different fashion," she said. "Some have been pretty. Some have been ugly. Some we just scrape by. This one we didn’t get by.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USWNT loses to Canada in 2021 Olympics semis, will play for bronze