Josee Belanger sends hosts Canada into Women's World Cup quarterfinals
Josee Belanger's big left foot propelled Canada right into the Women's World Cup quarterfinal on home soil with her goal in the 52nd minute lifting the tournament hosts past Switzerland 1-0 in a knockout-round match on Sunday.
Belanger was back in her preferred forward position following a three-game stint on defense in the group stage controlled a pass from Christine Sinclair and struck it left-footed to finish into the lower corner of the net past diving Swiss goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann.
That's all it took to send rocking BC Place into a frenzy.
As Belanger pumped both arms in celebration while running back coach John Herdman jumped into the air as his squad came out energized after halftime. Switzerland's solid attack and pressure in the first half helped quiet the crowd of 53,855.
Canada advances to face sixth-ranked England or No. 11 Norway in the quarterfinals next Saturday back at BC Place.
The Canadians beat a European team in the World Cup for the first time in 11 tries.
Belanger had a chance at another goal when Thalmann got pulled out of the box in the 68th minute but Caroline Abbe stepped in and cleared the shot.
In the 78th minute Canadian goalie Erin McLeod blocked a shot by Vanessa Bernauer right in front of the goal. She had another leaping save in the waning moments of injury time.
Swiss star Lara Dickenmann will be thinking about her missed chance. She couldn't get a foot on the ball to one-touch from close range in the 14th minute on a pretty cross from Ramona Bachmann in Switzerland's best opportunity.
Belanger also hit the post in the 16th minute, moments before Melissa Tancredi collided mid-air with Thalmann who fell hard to the turf onto her back.
Herdman's team playing to chants of "Can-a-da! Can-a-da!" advances past the group stage for just the second time in the country's World Cup history. In 2003 the Canadians reached the semifinal and led 1-0 over Sweden before allowing two goals over the final 12 minutes to lose 2-1 and wound up in fourth place.
That's the country's best finish and Sinclair was part of that special run.
Herdman made several successful line-up switches from the final group stage game a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands last Monday.
Defender Rhian Wilkinson came back from a hamstring injury and Lauren Sesselmann returned to her center back spot while the 29-year-old Belanger moved up front to score her sixth international goal.
Herdman stressed how defense alone wouldn't win it and his team set the tempo in the second half. Canada bronze medallist in the 2012 London Olympics after a 4-3 semifinal loss to the U.S. scored only two goals on the way to the round of 16.
Canada defender Kadeisha Buchanan gave Lara Dickenmann a slight shove and made several solid tackles to lead the back line.
Switzerland coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg -- a three-time World Cup player in her day for Germany -- embraced the opportunity for her young team to face Canada with its raucous home crowd. For one half the Swiss hung tough playing at BC Place for the third time in four World Cup matches. They beat Ecuador 10-1 on June 12 in Group C action and lost 1-0 in their World Cup opener to defending champion Japan on June 8.