olympic bound

Canada qualify for second straight Olympic Games

VANCOUVER, BC - Canada will join the United States at the Olympics, beating Mexico 3-1 on Friday to claim CONCACAF's second and last berth in the London Games.

Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi gave Canada a two-goal lead by the 23rd minute and the defense withstood a Mexican surge midway through the second half to win for the 17th time in 19 meetings - with one draw - against the Latins.

Sinclair added a second in the 76th to quell the Mexican rally and assure Canada's win. The United States beat Costa Rica 3-0 earlier Friday, setting up a Sunday final in CONCACAF Olympic women's qualifying.

"Mission accomplished. I'm proud of the girls tonight," Canada coach John Herdman said. "It's one of them performances. It's a cup final. Anything's going to go. The rules change.

"It's do or die. You them girls play some fantastic stuff. It's pretty exciting."

Mexico's only victory against Canada came in 2004, 2-1, to earn El Tri's only berth in the Olympics and deny the Canadians a trip to Athens.

With three days of rest - one more than Mexico, Canada started quickly.

Herdman reinserted Lauren Sesselmann - injured in Canada's opener against Haiti, into the left back spot and it paid an immediate dividend.

Sesselmann sent a cross into the area that Melissa Tancredi one-touched into space. Sinclair ran onto it, took one touch and sent a shot high past Mexican keeper Cecilio Santiago from 12 meters.

Sinclair was instrumental in setting up Tancredi eight minutes later. Sinclair sent a ball down the right side of the penalty area that Kelly Parker crossed into the edge of the six-yard box, where Tancredi volleyed with a right foot.

Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar replaced Teresa Noyola and Marylin Diaz with Anisa Guajardo and Monica Alvarado to start the second half, and El Tri's fortunes changed quickly.

Chances by Dinora Garza and a cross that Dominguez just missed in the first 10 minutes had Canada on the defensive. Monica Ocampo put a blast that Canada keeper Karina LeBlanc had to tip over in the 67th, and on the ensuing corner Mexico scored.

LeBlanc palmed away Garza's corner, but the ball bounded toward the top of the area, where Veronica Perez ran onto and stuck it first time to drive it in.

"I'm very proud of my team. We experienced a change of a generation of players. On experiences like this, we're going to build our future," Cuellar said. "Hopefully we will better contenders for the next qualifying matches for the World Cup and the Pan American Games.

"I think we have a bright future. To miss the Olympics, obviously we're going to pay the price because those kind of games prepare players," Cuellar said.

Mexico appeared to have the momentum, but Sinclair revived Canada nine minutes later. Tancredi sent a cross from the left into the middle, where Sinclair ran between Mexican defenders Natalie Garcia and Marlene Sandoval and lobbed Santiago from the arc.

The two goals gave Sinclair 129, moving her one past Germany's Birgit Prinz and into a tie with U.S. striker Abby Wambach for third most in women's soccer history. Mia Hamm has the most, 158, with fellow American Kristine Lilly in second with 130.

The goal delighted the home crowd of 22,954 at BC Place, which erupted into a blur of red and white.

"It's been an amazing journey. These players are a wonderful bunch. They're an inspiration to their country. They knew what they had on their shoulders tonight," Herdman said. "It's no way they were going to let Mexico trip them over in their own country in their own stadium in front of their own fans."


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