January 24, 2012
Canada makes quick work of Costa Rica
By HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - The Canadians made it look easy Monday.
In need of a win or a draw to finish first in their group, Canada's women soccer team scored three goals in the first 19 minutes to handily rout Costa Rica 5-1 at BC Place.
With that, the Canadians end up atop Group A in the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying tournament, set for an all-important semifinal showdown Friday.
"Going into the game, our plan was to never stop running and just do the things that we've been focusing on all week," said midfielder Kelly Parker. "I think we've accomplished that."
Canada will face the second-ranked team in Group B, which will be either USA or Mexico. An American victory or draw against the Mexicans Tuesday results in a first place finish, thus staging a matchup against Costa Rica in the other semifinal. The winners of the two semifinals earn a berth to the London Olympics this summer.
Monday, while facing their toughest opponent yet, Canada got off to another strong start. Rhian Wilkinson's shot into box in the sixth minute found an open Christine Sinclair, who juggled the ball before putting it past goalkeeper Julieth Arias and defender Fabiola Sanchez — who unsuccessfully attempted to knock the ball down with her hand.
Less than four minutes later, midfielder Sophie Schmidt took advantage of an Arias flub, scoring on a rebound to give Canada a two-goal lead.
Parker, who helped set up Schmidt's tally, nearly added another marker moments later but her shot sailed just wide of the Cuban net.
Having failed to convert on her many chances in Saturday's game against Cuba, Kaylyn Kyle scored her first of the tournament in the 19th minute. The midfielder headed in a low, left-footed lob from Sinclair, who improved her assists total to three.
Sinclair then scored her second of the night and seventh of the tourney in the final minute of the first half, knocking down another Wilkinson pass before powering the shot into the net. The goal moves her past American Abby Wambach for most goals in tournament history with 13.
Costa Rica added an own goal in the 50th minute as defender Marianne Ugalde's slow pass back fooled her own goalkeeper, giving Canada a 5-0 lead. It marked the most goals Costa Rica has given up in a game at the final round of Olympic qualifying.
"To get five goals in the first 60 minutes, it just put the game to bed for these lot here," said Canada coach John Herdman. "I just enjoyed it. It was just really fun to watch, they played some great football."
The Costa Ricans ruined Canadian goalie Karina LeBlanc's clean sheet, getting on the board in the 88th minute when Fernanda Barrantes took a Raquel Rodriguez cross in the box to score her lone goal of the tournament.
"The prep was really taking it to another level tonight," said Herdman. "We had to step it up and we wanted to show an intensity that we would take into the semifinals. It was about establishing a work ethic habit. And we did."
NOTE: Monday's game drew a crowd of 8,105, down from the 12,417 in Game 2 Saturday against Cuba ... Haiti won their first game of the tournament earlier in the day, defeating Cuba 3-0. The Haitians finish third in Group A.