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All Isn't Lost: Canadian Women Move On To Medal Rounds at Pan Am Soccer

It wasn't the way them dreamed of doing it, but Canada are on to the medal round of the Pan Am Games in women's soccer.

Rich Lam/Getty Images

As Canadian Pan Am coach Daniel Worthington walked out to talk to media last night, he wasn't even certain that his team had advanced to the medal rounds. By the end of his media scrum there were tears in his eyes as he realized what the Canadian women's national team had accomplished.

Canada lost 2-0 to Brazil on the day, but moved to the medal round on goal difference. A shocking 2-0 win for Ecuador over Costa Rica earlier on Sunday made this surprising turn of events possible.

"Sometimes when you do the right thing, good things happen," said Worthington of Canada getting unexpected help from Ecuador. "We brought a young squad here who are learning to be international footballers. It's good karma."

Despite the score line, last night was a strong showing for the young Canadians against a much more experienced Brazilian side who are the favourites to win Pan Am gold. For the majority of the match they competed well, even having spells where they dominated the South Americans.

While Canada played a stronger lineup tonight than their loss on Wednesday, there was still plenty of youth in the mix. 17-year-old Marie Levasseur started at forward and hardly looked out of place against World class talent. 16-year-olds Gabrielle Carle and Sarah Kinzner also made appearances.

"I think it's a massive step forward for this country giving these players a chance to play against the number six team in the world that put their best team out there," said Worthington.

The Canadians were given a huge boost by the return of both Kadiesha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence, who missed Canada's game against Costa Rica due to school commitments at West Virginia University.

Buchanan was solid at the back and did a stellar job of shutting down Brazilian star Christiane for the majority of the match. The Brazilian star did score once, but was otherwise fairly ineffective.

Lawrence gave Canada confidence in the midfield, and has fully embraced her role as a veteran on this team. She was Canada's biggest threat throughout the majority of the match.

"They came back today and showed some leadership," said Worthington. "It's a different game with Kadiesha in."

While there had been some suggestion floating around that Buchanan and Lawrence would miss Canada's semi-final match this coming Wednesday, they were put to bed last night. While Buchanan will be leaving briefly, both are available for the next match and the remainder of the tournament.

The third player who missed Wednesday's match due to suspension, Canadian captain Stephanie Labbe, returned to the fold and made a strong statement about her place in the national team's future. Making eight saves, many of them incredibly difficult, she led by example.

Overall, despite the loss, it was hard for the Canadian team to be too down on themselves. While they weren't celebrating after the match, it was clear that they were pleased to be moving on.

"I'm extremely proud of our performance," explained Lawrence. "We came out to get the win and we conceded two goals but we are just going to take those lessons on to our next game."

That next game comes against Colombia, who won the tournament's Group B and are undefeated so far at the Pan Am Games. Colombia also had a great run at the 2015 World Cup, beating France and making it to the knockout stages for the first time in their history.

"We definitely have to start preparing for [them]," said Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming. "Any of these South American teams are great technicians on the ball they are all very skilled and unpredictable at times."

Today, however, Canada proved that they have the ability to play against the best teams in this tournament, even if they couldn't get a result in the end. If they can learn the lessons Brazil taught them today, there is a good chance Canada will end up with a medal in women's soccer.

"I think this group is up for the challenge," Fleming said of playing Colombia for a chance to play in the final. "We are ready to take on anyone at this point."