United States and Canada women's football teams book places at London 2012
Saturday, 28 January 2012
January 28 - The United States and Canada will both be at the London 2012 Olympic Games after victories over Costa Rica and Mexico respectively in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF women's football qualifiers at BC Place in Vancouver.
For the US, holders of the Olympic title and winners of three of the four tournaments in the competition's history, their path to London was not as straightforward as the 3-0 scoreline suggested.
Raquel Rodriguez had come close to scoring after having a great chance whilst Daniela Cruz struck the bar as Costa Rica came close to opening the scoring on numerous occasions in the first half.
Tobin Heath eventually put them ahead against the run of play, and in the second half Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan added further goals as Costa Rica tired, a result which meant that they had scored 34 times without conceding in reaching the final.
Pia Sundhage, the US women's coach, says that "I always say I respect the game and the opposition and this is the proof.
"You can't take anything for granted.
"We score a lot of goals but Costa Rica came out and played well."
"Eventually we had three goals."
Costa Rica coach Karla Aleman was philosophical in defeat, and said that "it has been a great honour of playing against the best team in the world at the moment.
"These are the kind of experiences, the ones that we need for Costa Rica to get better and grow."
Abby Wambach (pictured above in white shirt), the highly experienced US forward who was pivotal in her team's run to the final of the World Cup in Germany last year, said that Sundhage's words at half time had helped calm the team and avoid a potential upset.
"She just wanted us to calm down," said Wambach.
"We were just giving the ball to them, then they just started to get a little bit of the momentum under them, and when a team gets momentum, sometimes they take control of the game, and we wanted to stop that."
The US, the only team in the region to have been to every Olympic Games that the women's football tournament has been held at, will be joined by Canada, who beat Mexico 3-1.
Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi put the hosts ahead early on and meant they took charge of the semi-final.
Mexico fought back valiantly to take control of the game and appeared to have the momentum with them when Veronica Perez struck with 25 minutes remaining.
Sinclair grabbed the Canadians' third 10 minutes later though to settle the contest and ensure they would be at the Olympics this summer.
Canada's coach, John Herdman, said that it was "mission accomplished".
"I'm proud of the girls tonight," he added, "it's one of those performances...a cup final.
"It's been an amazing journey, these players are a wonderful bunch – an inspiration to their country.
"They knew what they had on their shoulders tonight."
Leonardo Cuellar, the Mexico coach, said that "I'm very proud of my team.
"We experienced a change of generation of players.
"On experiences like this, we're going to build our future, hopefully we will be better contenders for the next qualifying matches for the World Cup and Pan American Games."
The US and Canada now meet in tomorrow's final, with the Americans hoping to repeat their victory over the same opponents in the final of the qualifiers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and maintain their record of never having lost a qualifying game.
January 2012: Canada, Cost Rica, Mexico and USA reach semis of CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers
January 2012: Canada take early lead at CONCACAF London 2012 qualifiers
January 2012: Twenty strong US women's squad arrive for CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers
January 2012: CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifiers set to get under way
November 2011: Telemundo and Universal Sports to broadcast CONCACAF London 2012 Olympic qualifiers