VANCOUVER - Granted, there's no such thing as a guarantee in sports but it wasn't supposed to have looked that difficult for the Americans.
Heading into the semifinals against Costa Rica, USA had been flawless. They outscored their opponents 31-0 at the Women's Olympic qualifiers in Vancouver, easily winning all three of their group games.
But Friday at BC Place, there was no decisive rout. They couldn't embarrass the other team by needlessly ramping up the score. In fact, it took the world's top-ranked team until the 72nd minute to score their second goal, before winning 3-0 over the 41st-ranked Costa Ricans.
With the victory, the Americans book their trip to London this summer, their fifth Olympic appearance.
It was a commendable effort by the Costa Ricans, who at times had U.S. reeling in their own end. But with the loss, they now fall 0-8 all-time against the States and outscored 37-0.
American Tobin Heath opened the scoring in the 16th minute. After Shannon Boxx got the first touch on the corner kick, Heath finished the set play with a header of her own to give USA a 1-0 lead. But then Costa Rica turned it on.
After goalkeeper Hope Solo was forced to make a pair of quality saves — probably her two most difficult ones in the entire tournament — Costa Rican defender Carol Sanchez booted a shot from 35-yards out off the crossbar.
They continued to pile on the pressure to close out the entertaining first half but failed to finish on their chances.
The regrouped United States side then had several opportunities of their own, including a shot by Abby Wambach that hit the side of the net just minutes into the second half.
A pair of Carli Lloyd free kicks from just outside the box also sailed wide. But the midfielder made the most of her chance with about 18 minutes to go, scoring on a scramble in the Costa Rican box, her sixth of the tournament.
Alex Morgan sealed it for the States in the 89th minute with her second goal of the tourney.
Canada faces Mexico in the later game Friday to decide the other CONCACAF Olympic qualifier spot.