A Josee Belanger second-half goal was enough to keep hosts’ Canada’s Women’s World Cup dream alive in a slim 1-0 win over Switzerland which gave them a quarter-final spot.
The 29-year-old from Quebec scored the winner after 52 minutes to the delight of a passionate home crowd of 53,855 at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium on Sunday.
Olympic bronze medallists Canada, fourth in 2003 and ranked eighth, next play either former champions Norway or England next Saturday in Vancouver for a place in the semi-final.
“Belanger was fantastic in the second half, she came up trumps for Canada,” said coach John Herdman.
“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. We have to make sure we keep rolling, keep this machine on the move.”
Switzerland, competing in their first World Cup and ranked 19th, had advanced from the group stage as one of the best third-place finishers.
In a high-intensity balanced match, Switzerland’s Ramona Bachmann had a near post shot pushed out early on.
Canada’s best chance of the half came when Belanger’s cross struck the post and bounced off goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann to safety.
Belanger finally got the breakthrough from a cross from captain Christine Sinclair, with Switzerland’s Ana Maria Crnogorcevic almost getting the equaliser ten minutes later but headed over.
Goalkeeper Erin McLeod made a key save 12 minutes from time as she denied Vanessa Bernauer from close range off a Bachmann cross.
“I’m really proud of the way the team played,” said 109-times capped McLeod, who was named player of the match.
“I really think we can go all the way.
“Even though it was a one goal game we could have go a lot more.
“It took us a while to get into the groove and we did. Hopefully in the next game we can score a bit earlier.”
Debutants Switzerland head home looking to build their young squad for the European championships in 2017.
“It was a highly intensive, balanced match and Canada scored the goal and we didn’t,” said coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg.
“I feel bad for my players, they’re sad. They allowed two goal chances and one went in.
“It hurts me when I see the disappointment on my players face.”
She added: “We came here as debutants and showed some real quality play and were an equal match.
“It’s an experience that will help us in the Euro 2017, competing here was a totally different pressure and training experience that was very valuable and helped us improve.”