Canada qualified to their third consecutive Summer Olympic Games after edging out Costa Rica 3-1 on Friday at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Captain Christine Sinclair guided the Canucks with her brace performance to the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics Games.
A Physical and Slow Pace to The Game
Sinclair was able to provide the spark of creativity and execute with a clinical world-class touch, when the game was providing more fouls then shots. The referee, Melissa Borjas, called 34 fouls in this game. Les Rouges picked up 25 of them. Not to mention Borjas also handed out three yellow cards in the game.
It was clear that this match was going to be struggle. The Ticas never gave the Canadian attack free space to move the ball around. Canada also did their homework and prevented Costa Rica from using their pace when they went on the offensive.
In result between the two countries, only a combined 10 shots were created. Only four of the 10 chances were on target, so it was clear that this match was not going to be one of Canada’s goal fests.
Canada was forced to attack more directly and use long balls and through balls to create goal scoring opportunities. The Central American defense was ready for that, their back line was strict and moved quickly. In result, the Canadians were called offsides five times.
The Ticas were playing smart and not turning over the ball frequently. Regardless of the persistent Canucks defensive pressure, they still finished the game with 86 percent of their passes being completed. Out of 185 passes only 26 of them were intercepted for the Costa Ricans.
For the first time in this tournament, Canada finished with a lower completion rate then their opponent. However, in the end not having a player with the finishing capabilities similar to Sinclair hurt the Ticas.
Sinclair Was Not To Be Denied Of Olympic Qualification
Regardless of Costa Rica’s pressure, the Canucks were able to break the deadlock in the 17th minute.
Winger Josee Belanger was at the right hand side of the field, parallel to the penalty box. She was being defended by one player, and before help was able to come, she sent in a wicked pass right into the heart of the box.
The movement of the ball fooled the defenders as they all bunched near the front of the goal. However, the pass bounced behind them near the penalty spot and right to Sinclair. She wasted no time, and quickly controlled the ball with her chest and then fired a shot into the right hand corner to give Canada the 1-0 lead.
The breakthrough for the Canucks had came and it appeared that the game was about to burst open for the Big Red.
However, the Ticas responded well and did not allow Canadians to extend their lead. Costa Rica’s defensive effort sacrificed their offense for the rest of the half. The Central Americans at the start of the second half were in good shape just being down by a goal. However, their defense began to make mistakes.
Their clearances were not clean and they allowed Canada to have too many chances around the box. In the 52nd minute, Canada’s striker Deanne Rose was making run towards the right hand side of the box with the ball.
She was being chased down by three defenders, and the play ended their as her shot was deflected and flew into the center of the box. A Costa Rican defender was there to clear it, but she botched the clearance. In result, the ball barely flew ahead of her and dropped right into the path of Sinclair.
The defender reacted quickly and did not allow Sinclair to turn and fire a shot. Insteadm the captain flicked the ball with her left foot to create a few area of space.
Sinclair then turned and fired the ball to the roof of the net with her right foot before the ball hit the ground. The Canucks now had a commanding 2-0 lead and the Costa Ricans began to look demoralized.
The Canadians were going for the kill as they kept on pushing for the third goal. The Ticas were holding on and attempting to find space to launch a counter.
Costa Rica Receives A Lifeline
However, the chances never came for the Ticas. It seemed that their offense was going to be shutout once again in CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualification Championship semifinal match, until the referee called a penalty.
Regardless that it had seemed that the Big Red midfielder Desiree Scott did not foul Costa Rica’s Diana Saenz, the penalty was given. The Ticas leading goal scorer, Raquel Rodriguez, stepped up and buried the ball to the left hand corner to cut lead in half (2-1) in the 72nd minute.
The Central Americans were right back in the match. However, they were not able to capitalize on the new momentum. The Ticas were slowing down; it appeared they were starting to run out of gas.
Canada controlled the possession for the rest of the game. However, 16-year-old forward Rose ended the match in the 84th minute. She made a run into the center of the box, and then finished off substitute Nichelle Prince's cross to secure the 3-1 victory.
The Canucks have qualified for the Olympics with this result. However, this tournament is not over for them yet. Les Rouges will be playing the United States in the final on Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.