Goofy goal gets gals through

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

JUAREZ, Mexico -- It was one of the most ridiculous ways to win a soccer game you're ever going to see. But Canada, which had lost this get-to-the-Olympics game to Mexico four years ago, offered no apology.

The northern girls won the game of their lives in the Torneo Preolympico Femenino in Estadio Benito Juarez here last night to qualify for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

But it was a goofy goal. And it was the only goal.

RUBI RED

Twenty five minutes into the match, backing up with the ball, Mexican defender Rubi Marlene Sandoval fell on her butt: Plopped on her posterior. The lass fell on her ass.

Sandoval left the ball conveniently on the foot of Ancaster, Ont., product Mellissa Tancredi who took the 45-metre trip and drilled it into the back of the net.

Just over an hour later Even Pellerud's girls were jumping into each other's arms as they became the first Canadian women's soccer team ever to make it to the Olympics.

It was an uncommonly cold night down Mexico way after a wind whipped dust on both side of the Rio Grande yesterday - perfect Canadian conditions.

But the crowd was all Mexican and the home country rode the crowd early.

Canadian keeper Erin McLeod was forced to handle the ball early and often, although Mexico really didn't get a four-star chance.

The Canadians poured the pressure on early in the second half with Tancredi sending one to the top right corner that Mexican keeper Perez had to file a flight plan to stop. In the flurry which followed the resulting corner kick, Sophia Perez had to recreate the same save in the same spot to keep it 1-0.

Mexico survived that and created their best push of the night.

The the soccer gods gave Mexico their one big break when Iris Mora had the ball on her foot for her own breakaway. Nobody fell on their butt and there was pressure pursuit. She ended up putting the ball in McLeod's midsection.

Midway in the second session both Christine Sinclair and Kara Lang sent excellent chances over the crossbar.

In the 80th minute Sinclair drilled one off the woodwork.

Three minutes later a Canadian header out of crowd hit the crossbar as well.

Canada was in control, winning all the little battles for the ball and dominating the game by that point. All that remained was to countdown the clock to history.

Earlier in the day, Costa Rica held off the USA for the first 58 minutes before the flood gates opened and Natasha Kai scored two and set up the other by Heather O'Reilly to send the USA to the Olympics yet again.

The Americans have now won 27 consecutive games in the history of the qualifying tournament. The two qualifying teams meet here in a mostly meaningless "gold medal" game Saturday.

EIGHT ALREADY IN

Host China, Japan, North Korea, Nigeria, Germany, Norway, Argentina and Sweden had already qualified for the 10-team Olympic tournament.

While Canada (World Cup medal round) and Norway (former World Cup and Olympic champions) were the big surprises not making it to the Olympics four years ago, Australia was the big surprise this time.

They nosed out Canada in Group play at last September's World Cup in China. Forced to go through Asia, it leaves New Zealand versus Papau New Guinea in a home-and-home series to come out of the Oceanic group, while second place finisher Ghana out of Africa and runner-up Brazil out of South America will play a neutral site gameto decide the other spot.


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