June 25, 2019 / 12:55 AM / a month ago

Soccer: Canada rues 'Gretzky' moment during World Cup exit

(Reuters) - Canada crashed out of the women’s World Cup on Monday with a 1-0 loss to Sweden that left many wondering why the country’s most prolific goal scorer was not called upon for a late penalty that would have tied the game.

Soccer Football - Women's World Cup - Round of 16 - Sweden v Canada - Parc des Princes, Paris, France - June 24, 2019 Sweden's Stina Blackstenius celebrates scoring their first goal with Sweden's Kosovare Asllani REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Christine Sinclair, who has 182 international goals, two shy of American Abby Wambach’s all-time record, stood helpless as team mate Janine Beckie was denied by an outstanding save by the Swedish keeper in the 69th minute at Parc des Princes in Paris.

The miss was quick to evoke memories of the 1998 Nagano Olympics when Canadian ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky was benched during the shootout of a shocking semi-final loss to the Czech Republic.

Moments after Beckie’s well-aimed shot was denied by a diving Hedvig Lindahl, who got both hands to the ball and pushed it around the post, Gretzky’s name started trending on Twitter as fans compared the two incidents.

Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller allows the players to decide who will take a penalty and in this instance it was captain Sinclair who offered Beckie the chance.

The 36-year-old Sinclair, well aware that Hedvig saved her penalty kick at the Algarve Cup in March, said she told Beckie if she wanted the shot, it was all hers.

“She said, ‘Absolutely.’ I feel bad for even asking her, but I have all the faith in the world in her, we all do,” said Sinclair, who was playing in what could be her last World Cup.

“She’s fearless out there and I asked her after the game if she placed it where she wanted to and she said, ‘yes.’ Then you can’t do anything more, the keeper made a world-class save and you have to tip your hat to her.”

While Canada had opportunities, the Lindahl save appeared to suck the spirit out of the players.

The round of 16 loss was beyond disappointing for a heralded, world number five team that had lofty expectations given their run to the quarter-finals at the last World Cup on home soil.

Beckie said the miss would stick with her for a long time but felt she had done all she could with the attempt.

“I’m confident in my penalty, I thought I hit it really well,” she said.

“I thought she made a really good save. It’s the big moments that are the moments that you live for. You get all the glory if it goes in and take all the blame, it feels like, if you miss.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ian Ransom

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