Canada fall to USA but secure their Tokyo 2020 spot

Despite securing their ticket to the Tokyo Olympics, history repeated itself for Canada. USA brushed the Canadians aside with a 3-0 win in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying final.

Canada met little resistance in the sweep of their Olympic qualifier group games. They then managed to overcome a tactically disciplined Costa Rica in the semi-final to book their ticket to Tokyo.

Canada then met the world champions in a rematch of many CONCACAF tournament finals in years past.

The storied rivalry between the two North American heavyweights indicated that neither side would pull any punches in an attempt to snag bragging rights, despite having already secured their qualifications in Friday evening’s semi-finals.

However, with less than 48 hours between the two games, USA coach Vlatko Andonovski opted for a rotated starting 11. This omitted several starters including Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Kelly O’Hara.

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In contrast, coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller named a defensively-minded squad primarily comprised of the usual suspects. This included Olympique Lyonnais defender Kadeisha Buchanan, who was given the captain’s armband for the occasion of her 100th cap.

READ MORE: The Rise and Decline of the Canadian Women’s National Team Pt. I

Over the first 45 minutes, Canada edged the USA in terms of possession and held the Americans at bay. Both teams appeared to be evenly matched throughout the opening half.

A Christen Press strike from distance was denied only by the outstretched fingertips of Stephanie Labbé. A moment of brave goalkeeping from Alyssa Naeher was required down the other end of the pitch in order to keep Christine Sinclair off the scoresheet.

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However, an error by the otherwise stalwart Jayde Riviere allowed the Americans to capture the lead at the hour mark, turning the tide of the game and opening the floodgates.

The game ended in typical fashion for the Canadians in a CONCACAF tournament. They fell to a heavy 3-0 defeat at the hands of their Southern rivals.

Qualification secured despite Costa Rican resistance

It took 72 minutes, multiple formation changes and a key substitution to find the first goal of the game. A strike from Christine Sinclair’s heir-apparent, Jordyn Huitema was enough to book Canada’s ticket to Tokyo 2020.

Canada are heading to Tokyo – thanks to an 18-year-old striker.

In the 72nd minute, Manchester City striker Janine Beckie managed to slot in substitute Deanne Rose outside the area. Rose then found Huitema in the six-yard box with a superb cross.

Fortunately, the Paris St. Germain striker’s blushes were spared when her initial effort hit the post and returned to her feet. She tucked in the rebound at the far post, finally giving Canada the lead they were desperate capture.

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Up until the final, storylines surrounding the Canadian camp had revolved around Sinclair and Canada’s goal-scoring proficiency in the group stage.

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Leading up to the definite semi-final against Costa Rica, Sinclair had broken the all-time goal-scoring record in Canada’s opening 11-0 win against St. Kitts and Nevis.

Canada would go on to brush aside Jamaica and Mexico in their remaining group games, scoring a total of 22 goals and conceding none.

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Despite their dominance in the group stage and holding 65% possession over the course of Friday’s crucial qualifier, Canada struggled to overcome a Costa Rican side against whom they had never lost before.

Costa Rica effectively employed a low block to frustrate the flowing attack that Canada had otherwise employed against their previous opposition. The Canadians had difficulty coping with the physicality of the Central American side.

Over the course of 90 minutes, Canada committed 21 fouls to Costa Rica’s 14, with each side receiving two yellow cards apiece.

Despite falling at the last hurdle, Canada join Brazil, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and USA in this year’s Olympics.

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