Canada downs Costa Rica 3-1 in World Cup qualifying tourney

Canada downs Costa Rica 3-1 in World Cup qualifying tourney
Christine Sinclair scores 175th goal as Canada tops Costa Rica
Canada defeated Costa Rica 3-1 on Thursday to secure top spot in Group B at the CONCACAF Womens Championship. Christine Sinclair scored her 175th career goal, putting her nine back of tying Abby Wambachs all-time record. Janine Beckie also scored her first of the tournament, while Nichelle Prince added her fourth goal in her last three games.

The Canadians, ranked fifth in the world, will now face Panama in the semi-finals. A win in that game will secure Canada a berth in next years Womens World Cup in France.

The top three teams from the knockout round automatically qualify for the World Cup. The fourth-place team will face Argentina in a playoff game.

I think we played a good game, said head coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller. I think what weve been very good at is to have an increase in our performance throughout this tournament. Weve been very good at focusing on one match at a time, and we stayed focused on this match. Its a tough match to play because you know Costa Rica has nothing to lose, and they came flying out, as expected.

I think we did great throughout the group stage, said Prince. I think were feeling confident. We have one more game until we can solidify our spot in France. We just have to keep carrying on the momentum into that game.

Canada improved to a perfect 13-0-0 against 34th-ranked Costa Rica, outscoring the Central Americans 45-6. Despite the lopsided goal differential, there have been some close games, with three of the last four meetings all decided by a 3-1 score.

Its a disappointing finish for Costa Rica, who is the fourth-highest ranked team in the tournament.  After making their World Cup debut in 2015, they failed to qualify for France next year, finishing third in Group B with one win and two losses.

Forwards Sinclair, Beckie and Prince continued to show their recent chemistry. The trio has started five of Canadas last seven games together, and on Thursday they once again generated plenty of scoring chances and each recorded a goal.

Im very satisfied about the amount of chances we created on the ball. Thats been a key thing for us to be better, said Heiner-Møller. I think weve been very good sometimes in not giving anything away, but then we dont create something. I think tonight it was a good balance of us not giving them anything on the ball, but then creating something in their end. That balance was the best for me.

After having a quiet game against Jamaica, Beckie opened the scoring in the 25th minute after Jessie Fleming sent in Beckie with a beautiful flick into the box. Costa Rican goalkeeper Daniela Solera misplayed the ball and Beckie fired it into the empty net. It was the 23rd international goal in 46 appearances for the 24-year-old and also her fourth in three games against Costa Rica. 

Prince then continued her recent torrid pace in the 39th minute. Off a corner kick, Beckies cross was bobbled by Solera, and Prince pounced on the loose ball for her 10th international goal.

Ive been feeling good throughout the tournament, said Prince.  I just feel really good about the team performance right now, and Im hoping I can get another one in the next game and just continue the momentum.

In the 56th minute, Sinclair was the recipient of some great work down the left wing by Prince and fullback Allysha Chapman. The defender overlapped her run with Prince, then sent a perfect ball right to the foot of Sinclair, who deflected it to the far post. It was Sinclairs second goal in as many games and moved the captain within single digits of tying Wambachs all-time record of 184.

After making several changes in Canadas last game against Cuba, Heiner-Møller largely went with the same starting 11 he fielded in the first match of the tournament against Jamaica, with two exceptions. Midfielder Diana Matheson took Sophie Schmidts place, and 18-year-old midfielder Julia Grosso made her third career start. Centreback Kadeisha Buchanan rested for the second straight game, but Canada Soccer said she will play in the knockout round.

With no Buchanan, Rebecca Quinn slotted in at centreback alongside Shelina Zadorsky. The backline did well to shut down the Costa Rican attack until the 72nd minute. Gloriana Villalobos received a pass just outside the box, beat both Zadorksy and Quinn before firing it past Stephanie Labbé, denying the goalkeeper a clean sheet a day after her 32nd birthday.

They do have these very, very good players, and we were good at nullifying them until we let them in with some of our passes that were a little slobbery, said Heiner-Møller.

Canada will now travel to Frisco, Texas to face Panama in the first semi-final.  The top-ranked Americans and Jamaica will play in the other semi matchup. 

Panama, ranked 66th in the world, has been one of the biggest surprises of the tournament. They finished second in Group A after garnering victories over Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico, thanks in large part to their 17-year-old goalkeeper Yenith Bailey, who has become a breakout star.

Bailey earned clean sheets against Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico and even though Panama lost 5-0 to the United States in its second game, Bailey kept the score as close as it was. After the final whistle, American stars Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan both approached Bailey to offer their praise and congratulations. Lloyd later called her performance very, very impressive.

This is a very young and inexperienced Panamanian squad. There is no player older than 30 on the roster, which has an average age of 20.5. They have eight teenagers on the team, including 13-year-old Sheyla Diaz, who has yet to play. The Central Americans only re-entered the FIFA rankings last month after being inactive for over 18 months.

Canada has faced Panama just once before on Feb. 28, 2004 (one month shy of Baileys third birthday). The Canadians won 6-0 in the CONCACAF Womens Olympic qualifier. Matheson is the only player currently on the roster who has ever played against Panama (Sinclair and goalkeeper Erin McLeod were both on the bench for the game in 2004). 

EDINBURG, Texas — Christine Sinclair scored her 175th international goal and Canada beat Costa Rica 3-1 on Thursday to finish the group stage undefeated and advance to the semifinal at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

Sinclair, who can overtake American Abby Wambach for the most international goals with another 10, put Canada ahead 3-0 in the 57th minute after first-half markers from Janine Beckie and Nichelle Prince.

Canada opened the tournament — which serves as a World Cup qualifier for North and Central America and the Caribbean — with a 2-0 win over No. 64 Jamaica on Friday. The No. 5 Canadians downed No. 88 Cuba 12-0 on Monday in their second group match.

Canada finished atop Group B and is slated to face Panama on Sunday. Jamaica will take on the top-ranked and Group A winning U.S. in the other semifinal.

The top three finishers qualify automatically for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France while the fourth-place team will meet Argentina in a playoff to see who joins them.

Canada outscored its opposition 24-3 in finishing runner-up to the U.S. at the most recent CONCACAF women’s tournament in 2016, which served as an Olympic qualifier.

Canada has won all 13 of its meetings against Costa Rica, including a 6-0 victory over the Central Americans in Toronto in June 2017.