Canada WNT book tickets to Rio with 3-1 defeat of Costa Rica in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinal
HOUSTON – Canada’s women’s national team booked a place in the 2016 Summer Olympics with a 3-1 victory over Costa Rica at BBVA Compass Stadium in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinals on Friday evening, led by two classy finishes from star striker Christine Sinclair.
Les Rouges will now await the winner of the second semifinal match between Trinidad & Tobago and the heavily favored United States, with the tournament final set for Sunday afternoon.
The underdog Ticas had to defend most of the game, though a smart early through ball down their right channel forced Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod to race off her line and slide in to collect the ball just before the onrushing Melissa Herrera near the corner of Canada’s penalty box.
But it proved an isolated foray for the Central Americans, as Canada’s high pressure broke through three minutes later with yet another goal from the legendary Sinclair to put Les Rouges up 1-0 in the 17th minute.
Costa Rica failed to deal with a looping cross from the Canadian right wing and when the ball bounced to the far post, Sinclair was on hand to bring it down and volley a cool finish past ‘keeper Dinnia Diaz into the lower right corner of the net. It was the veteran’s CONCACAF-record 17th goal in Olympic qualifying and the 160th of her career, pushing her one step closer to Abby Wambach‘s world record of 184.
Canada’s lead was deserved and Diana Matheson nearly doubled it in the 34th minute when a crisp passing sequence opened up an angled look from short range for the diminutive Washington Spirit playmaker, but Diaz got down to make the save.
Canada took their advantage into halftime and looked to have secured a comfortable victory when Sinclair produced a moment of real magic in the 52nd minute to push the score to 2-0.
Stepping up to a miscued clearance at the top of the Ticas box, the Canuck icon had to wait for the ball to bounce at an awkward level – but more than made up for it with a cheeky touch over her head as she swiveled onto her left foot and unleashed a vicious volley that flew over Diaz, cracked off the underside of the crossbar and thumped into the net.
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Costa Rica threatened to mount a late comeback as Raquel Rodriguez, NCAA soccer’s Hermann Trophy award winner last year, netted a penalty kick to cut the deficit to 2-1 after Canada’s Desiree Scott committed a foul at the edge of her team’s box.
But those hopes were dashed when 16-year-old striker Deanne Rose dinked home a sliding finish to cap a Les Rouges counterattack in the 86th minute.