By Kara McDermott
The chants of “I believe that we will win,” from the vocal Canadian supporter section certainly seemed prescient as the northern reds were the first to secure top honors out of their group.
Perhaps it wasn’t entirely clairvoyant – the Canadian women gave them plenty of confidence early on. They opened the scoring in the 6th minute off a trademark Christine Sinclair play. Rhian Wilkinson served from outside the penalty box to Sinclair, kept onside by defender Fabiola Sanchez backing up keeper Julieth Arias. Sinclair bounced the ball off of her thigh and then volleyed it into the mouth of the goal.
Fabiola Sanchez narrowly escaped a red card as she attempted to bat away the ball. Veteran American referee Kari Seitz let the goal stand and the defender stay.
In the marked style of this tournament so far, once the first goal was scored the momentum brought even more. In the 10th minute, Kelly Parker took the ball from the top of the penalty area to the goal line with a burst of speed and shot straight across to the goal. Julieth Arias in the Rican goal got her hands on the ball, but by not catching it set Sophie Schmidt for an easy finish a few steps from the goal.
And then in the 19th minute, Sinclair beat two defenders with quick cutting touches and expertly placed a ball on the head of a diving Kaylyn Kyle at the far post for the third goal of the night.
Sinclair was not about to go into the locker room tied with the US’ Abby Wambach for most goals overall in the final round of the Olympic qualifying tournament.
She pulled ahead with her 13th goal in the 45th minute off a long ball from Wilkinson. Sinclair chested down the ball and volleyed on the bounce to bury it into the lower right corner of the goal.
An unfortunate accident in the 50th minute furthered Costa Rica’s downfall. Marianne Ugalde passed a slow simple pass to Arias.
The keeper, looking up field for a pass, lost track of the ball and it went past her foot and rolled agonizingly into the goal. The own goal would make for the most goals allowed by Costa Rica in a single game in their Olympic qualifying history.
Costa Rica hung into the game and gave Canada something they have not had yet this whole tournament: a goal against. In the 89th minute, Raquel Rodriguez served a long cross from the right side. Fernanda Barrantes cushioned the ball with inside of her foot, giving it enough of a touch forward to go past defender Robyn Gayle, and then volleyed for a perfectly placed ball into the high far corner. This was also the first match of the tournament to have goals from both teams.
Costa Rica ends then on a high note, and will look to take that into their next game, a semi-final match on Friday at 5:00 against the winner of the US vs. Mexico match tomorrow. Canada as the top seed from Group A will play at 8:00 PST.
CANADA:Karina Leblanc, Shannon Woeller, Melanie Booth, Kaylyn Kyle (Chelsea Buckland 46′), Rhian Wilkinson (Robyn Gayle 46′), Candace Chapman, Christina Julien, Desiree Scott, Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt (Brittany Timko 62′), Kelly Parker
Subs not used: Carmelina Moscato, Alyscha Mottershead, Melissa Tancredi, Erin McLeod, Lauren Sesselman (injured), Chelsea Stewart
Head coach: John Herdman
COSTA RICA: Julieth Arias, Vendry Villalobos (Carol Sanchez 46′), Diana Saenz, Mariela Campos, Carolina Venegas (Fernanda Barrantes 46′), Shirley Cruz, Raquel Rodriguez, Lizy Rodriguez, Marianne Ugalde, Fabiola Sanchez, Wendy Acosta (Cristin Granados 67′)
Subs not used: Saudy Rosales, Adriana Venegas, Erika Miranda
Head coach: Karla Aleman