|Canada's Christine Sinclair (L) celebrates her goal against Haiti with teammate Rhian Wilkinson during the first half of their CONCACAF Women's Olympic qualifying soccer game in Vancouver, British Columbia January 19, 2012. REUTERS/Andy Clark
VANCOUVER -- It's been an relatively easy trek so far for Canada but that's about to change.
Having played two weak teams to start their CONCACAF Women's Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver, Canada will face its toughest challenge yet Monday against 41st-ranked Costa Rica.
Both clubs won their opening games and due to goal differential, a win or a draw for Canada means a first-place finish in Group A.
A loss, and they'll end up second, forced to face Group B's top team in the semifinals, which most likely will be the Americans.
Either way, the Canadian women head into their final game of the round robin at BC Place with the upper hand.
"(We) only have to draw in the next game," coach John Herdman said. "That puts us in a brilliant position. It means we don't have to run every player into the ground so we can keep ourselves fresh for (the semifinals)."
Canada and Costa Rica last met in October when the Canadians won 3-1 at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Now, the Costa Ricans are coming off a very physical game against Haiti Saturday, which they prevailed 2-0. And for Canada, they see it as an advantage following their more composed victory Saturday over Cuba.
"In a tournament like this, players pick up knocks and they're not at 100%," said leading scorer Christine Sinclair, who has five goals and two assists in the tournament. "Getting up early, we were able to sort of take our foot off the gas pedal a little bit and not going to those tackles that sometimes you have to when you're tired or whatever.
"(Costa Rica has) to chase the game a little bit. They have to win, which hopefully will open some things up for us."
Costa Rica will also be a more talented and organized side than Canada's two previous opponents.
"They're a hard team, they're obviously a better team," midfielder Kaylyn Kyle said of the Central American squad. "We've just got to go out there and play the game that we know how to play and just go from there."
Note: Following Saturday's game, Herdman hinted that Lauren Sesselmann will most likely not be available until Friday's semifinals. The defender suffered a knee injury during Canada's first game on Thursday.