Canada brush Costa Rica aside to head into quarter final draw as top ranked nation

February 28 – Canada beat Costa Rica in the Shell Energy Stadium in Houston in their final group game of Group C to secure qualification ahead of Brazil for the quarter finals as the top ranked nation.

They will now face Costa Rica again as the eight ranked qualifier on Saturday in Los Angeles. Having finished third in the group Costa Rica were on the same points, goal difference and number of cards as Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rocans only qualified for the group stage via the preliminary knock-out play-in 12 days ago. Their journey has been one of the big stories of this inaugural W Gold Cup.

Two headed goals from corners by Shelina Zadorsky put the game beyond the Costa Ricans who set up defensively but were picked apart for 70 minutes before, having made changes, had aresurgence in the last 20 minutes but by then it was too little too late.

Costa Rica went into their final group game in second place but knowing that if they were to lose they had to keep the score down and hope that Paraguay lost to El Salvador in the evening’s second game.

Canada were playing to hold on to the top ranking slot and a 100% record.

There has been a calm surety about the way Canada have gone about their business in the group rounds.

Their neat passing keeps the play flowing as they look for gaps, while their running off the ball sees them get numbers forward to support their wide play. Defensively their back three and wing backs have rarely been challenged, let alone flustered, and they are yet to concede a goal. If there is a criticism it is that leave too many chances unfinished.

Canada quickly settled into their pattern of play, using both wings with Adriana Leon and Sami Awujo on the right and Gabby Clarke on the left to stretch Costa Rica’s backline and force them to defend on their heels.

In the 11th minute Canada had the lead, a ball from the bustling Jessie Fleming clipped into the box and just over Costa Rican centreback Mariana Benavides to find the head of an incoming Jordyn Huitema who finished with ease.

On 26’ they were 2-0 up. An Adriana Leon corner was swung to the back post where Shelina Zadorsky headed down from 3m between Costa Rica keeper Daniel Solera and her post.

It was a comfortable half for Canada who dominated with 67% of possession. Costa Rica laboured to keep hold of the ball and despite Raquel Rodriguez’s best efforts in midfield could find nothing for their star forward Maria Salas to feed on. The Costa Ricans had not had a single shot on goal.

At half time Bev Priestman brought on 19-year-old starlet Olivia Smith for Leon and she should have scored in her first minute on the pitch, mis-cuing a tap in from a flowing move down the left hand side.

Smith was involved in Canada’s third goal. Her corner from the left went deep to the back post where Zadorsky was waiting again to power her header through Solero for her second of the game.

Both sides made changes with Costa Rica starting to press the Canadians higher up the pitch. In the 71stminute San Diego Wave’s Rodrigues picked up a ball 23m from goal and hammered her shot into the bar.

With the game coming to life Juventus midfielder Julia Grosso had a shot tipped over her bar by Solero.

Costa Rica’s change players took control of the game for the last 20 minutes but it wasn’t enough time to break their duck, if only they had started earlier.

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