The Globe & Mail
CANCUN, Mexico— The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, Nov. 02, 2010 11:47PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Nov. 03, 2010 12:37AM EDT
The Canadian women’s soccer team defeated Mexico 3-0 Tuesday night to win its preliminary pool and avoid a date with the powerful Americans in the semifinals of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament.
Instead 13th-ranked Canada will take on No. 47 Costa Rica, runner-up to the top-ranked U.S. in the other group, in Friday’s semifinal with a berth in the 2011 World Cup on the line.
The two CONCACAF finalists will book their ticket to the 2011 World Cup in Germany. The third-place team will compete in a two-game playoff against Italy, which won the playoff for fifth place in Europe, for the final berth.
Candace Chapman, Josee Belanger and substitute Jonelle Filigno scored for Canada, which has qualified for the last four World Cups, in a comfortable win.
“It kind of reminded us of Olympic qualifying two years ago, kind of the same atmosphere, so we knew what to expect,” Chapman said of facing a tough Mexican team on its home turf. “We knew we had to stay calm and control what we could control.
“It was good to score first to kind of quiet (the fans) down, but being in Mexico it’s never really quiet.”
Canada improved to 3-0 at the CONCACAF tournament, having outscored its Group A opposition 12-0.
Both teams were looking to put off a meeting showdown with the 3-0 Americans, who have scored 18 goals and given up none in Group B. Thanks to Canada, Mexico is next up for the U.S.
Asked if Canada was happy to avoid the Americans in the semifinal, Chapman said: “I think they’re probably just as happy as we are.”
Tuesday’s game started in a downpour at Estadio Beto Avila but the rain eventually subsided in the first half.
Canada controlled most of the play in the first half, although the 22nd-ranked Mexicans (2-1) began to venture further into Canadian territory as the clock wound down.
Chapman scored in the 20th minute off a corner that 16-year-old Mexican goalie Cecelia Santiago failed to deal with. A weak punch went straight to Chapman who banged it home.
“I made a late run into the box off the corner kick. I was waiting for a rebound and it came right to me,” Chapman said. “I chested it and volleyed it as quick as I could, and it went in.”
Santiago was better in the 22nd minute, deflecting a cross from Melissa Tancredi over the bar.
A long-range shot in the 37th minute, comfortably handled by Karina LeBlanc, was the best the Mexicans had to offer in the first half on offence. A minute later, Santiago stopped a Christine Sinclair shot on target.
Canada made it 2-0 in first-half injury time after another Santiago error. The goalie fumbled a catch from a looping Canadian header and the ball bounced back to Belanger, who slotted it home.
Mexico had more of the play in the second half but failed to threaten. And in its own half, Santiago was an adventure in goalkeeping whenever the ball came into the box.
Filigno upped the lead to 3-0 in the 66th minute, heading home a pretty cross from Belanger.
“The players have grown lots,” said Canadian coach Carolina Morace. “They showed they want to win, they don’t want to give up and they fight until the end of the match. It is not easy to score three goals against Mexico.”
The Mexicans came into the game with a strong record in home — unbeaten in their last eight qualifying matches — but with a losing overall record against North American opposition.
Canada has now faced Mexico 16 times with an overall record of 14-1-1.
“It was not easy to win this match in a stadium full of support and enthusiasm for the home team,” Morace said. “I think we prepared very well as a team and we attacked Mexico. The players were fantastic.”
Morace continued to rotate her squad, bringing in five new starters from the Guyana game. Morace used all 20 of her players in the first two games.
“It’s awesome that we can change up our lineup so much and our results won’t change on the field,” Chapman said.
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