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Canada Prove They Still Know How to Win in Dramatic Rio Olympic Opener

This team doesn't do anything the easy way, it seems, but they still got the job done yesterday against Australia.

Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

If nothing else, this Canadian women's national team sure knows how to do things in a dramatic fashion. Four years ago in London, they played in arguably the best game in women's soccer history, before winning the bronze medal with a late goal against France.

Yesterday's Olympic opener was no different, as the team played a heart-pounding ninety minutes of soccer Canada's 2-0 victory over Australia had a more creative plot than most, if not all, of this summer's blockbusters.

When the rollercoaster reached its final stop, Canada had put together a statement win to open Rio 2016. Four years after shocking the world to win bronze, Canada has the making of a metal contender again.

Canada got off to the quickest start in Olympic history, scoring just 24 seconds into the match. Christine Sinclair picked off an Australian defender in the offensive third before finding Janine Beckie all alone in front of goal. Beckie calmly found the back of the net in her Olympic debut, and gave Canada a very early 1-0 lead.

The Australians, however, quickly keyed in on Canada's defensive flaw: balls in behind. It was one of these balls that led to the events in the 18th minute, wherein Shelina Zadorsky committed a last man back foul and was given a straight red card.

With Canada down to 10 women, Australia continued to press their advantage, and did everything but put the ball in the back of the net. Stephanie Labbe was shaky at times, but was able to hold strong enough as the defenders around her desperately hung on.

Somehow, Canada was able to get to halftime unscathed, and when they did the momentum seemed to change. Australia still had the lion's share of possession in the second half, but seemed to be out of ideas in the final third as they were thwarted again and again by Canadian defenders.

Rebecca Quinn, the substitute when Zadorsky was red careded, was particularly impressive. Beside Buchanan, she made a number of goal-saving tackles for Canada. Meanwhile, Ashley Lawrence confidently moved the ball out of the back for Canada, getting the team out of many tight situations.

Despite being down a woman, Canada had the best chances of the second half, especially as the clock got closer to 90 minutes. In the 73rd, Canada was awarded a penalty on a phantom handball by an Australian defender.

Janine Beckie would step up to take, but her weak effort was easily stopped by Lydia Williams. There were many questions to be asked as to why it was not regular penalty taker, Christine Sinclair, who took the shot. John Herdman said after the match that it was because Beckie was "feeling it" at the time so Sinclair deferred. It is unlikely that she does so again.

It was Beckie's lone mistake in what was otherwise a very impressive Olympic debut. It was she who set up Canada's next chance when she played Jessie Fleming through on goal. Fleming's shot was turned aside by Williams.

There was a feeling that maybe Canada would live to regret missing these chances, especially being down a woman, was washed away in the 80th minute. That's when Fleming's clearance found Sinclair behind the Australian backline, which had pushed up too far as it desperately searched for an equaliser.

Australian keeper Williams rushed out, but Sinclair calmly touched it around her and found the back of the net. In what was her best game for the national team in several years, Sinclair scored her 163rd goal for Canada. She is now just 21 goals behind Abby Wambach for the most by any women in national team history.

The goal was the icing on the cake of what was a gutsy Canadian match, and the kind that they have been able to make their calling card at the Olympic games. It was the kind of performance that Canada was missing at last year's World Cup, and the fact that it came so early in this tournament is a good sign.

Canada will have to beat better teams than Australia if they want to medal again in Rio, but this game made it clear that they have the potential to do so. When they play Zimbabwe on Saturday, they will have an opportunity to lock up a trip to the knockout round of this tournament.