|Marco Fabian of Mexico celebrates a goal against Andres Fresenga of Canada in the 2012 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Semifinals at Livestrong Sporting Park on March 31, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images/AFP)
TORONTO - Canada’s Olympic soccer dreams came to an end in Kansas City on Saturday night, losing 3-1 to Mexico and falling a game short of a place at the London Games.
After Canada pulled level through Marcus Haber midway through the first half, the Mexicans never looked back after Alan Pulido’s quick one-two a minute later beat Canada’s defence at the top of the area.
The Mexican attacker slid his open look past Canadian ’keeper Michal Misiewicz to regain a 2-1 advantage.
Mexico’s Marco Fabian had opened the scoring in the 19th minute on a breakaway that came from a through-ball that split Canada’s defence. With Misiewicz in two minds, Fabian beat Canada’s No. 1 to the ball for an easy finish.
Despite Haber equalizing from a Philippe Davies cross at the half-hour mark, the Canadians struggled to compete against a Mexican under-23 team that had significant experience at the full international level.
Nine of Mexico’s rostered youth players competed for the full Mexican national team during last year’s Copa America — a competition that features nations from Latin America.
El Tri came inches close to increasing its lead in the 59th minute when a restart from the edge of the area came back off the crossbar.
The Mexicans found its decisive third goal on the same sequence when left back Miguel Ponce collected a ball on the left side of the box. After beating Nana Attakora to the inside, Ponce’s screamer found the upper corner to extend the match to 3-1.
Toronto FC’s Doneil Henry was sent off in the 78th minute after receiving a second caution. The TFC product almost gave Canada a shock lead just minutes in when his header from a corner was cleared off the Mexican goal line.
Haber came close to registering a brace in stoppage time when he latched onto a ball played in behind Mexico’s defence. The Vancouver native’s effort from a tight angle was kicked away by Liborio Sanchez.
After dispatching El Salvador in extra time in the tournament’s first semifinal, El Tri joins Honduras as CONCACAF’s only representatives at the London Olympics. The two nations will meet tomorrow in a meaningless final to determine the region’s Olympic qualifying champion.
The 3-1 result sends Mexico back to the Olympics for the first time since 2004.
Having not qualified for an Olympic Games since 1984, Canada reached the tournament’s knockout phase following a shocking 2-0 win over the United States in group play — a result that saw the Americans fail to advance to the semifinals on home soil.
But a disappointing draw to Cuba on the final day of group play set up a difficult match against a nation that is widely considered to be one of the best in the world at the youth level.
The 16-team Olympic tournament begins July 26.