Rebecca Quinn and Nichelle Prince each scored three goals as Canada crushed its third straight opponent, beating Guatemala 10-0 on Tuesday to set the stage for the one game that matters at the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship.
The Canadian women, ranked 11th in the world, will meet No. 34 Costa Rica in the tournament semifinal Friday with an Olympic berth on the line. Canada won bronze four years ago at the London Games.
In the earlier game Tuesday at BBVA Compass Stadium, No. 48 Trinidad & Tobago defeated No. 89 Guyana (5-1) to advance to the other semifinal against the top-ranked U.S. That result meant Canada would have to lose to Guatemala by 12 goals to fall out of first spot in Group B.
Instead it was one-way traffic with the field seemingly tilted towards the Central Americans' goal. The outcome was so secure that Canada could afford to send in attacking midfielder Sophie Schmidt at centre back in the second half.
Melissa Tancredi scored twice and Gabrielle Carle and Janine Beckie added singles for a young Canadian side missing many of its top players including captain Christine Sinclair.
Winless Guatemala, ranked 76th in the world, was game but totally outmatched. Canada outshot Guatemala 33-0, with 17 of the Canadians shots on target.
Rookie earns hat trick in 7 minutes
Quinn's hat trick came in seven minutes — in first-half stoppage time, the 49th and 52nd minutes. Quinn and Carle scored their first goals at the senior level, raising the number of Canadians to score at the tournament to 11.
"It's a surreal feeling" Quinn told Canada Soccer when asked about her hat trick. "It was certainly not something I was expecting when I woke up this morning."
Canada was bigger and better than the Guatemalans and spent most of the game playing keepaway with the ball. When players matched up with each other during set pieces, the size difference was sometimes akin to the start of pro matches when players walk out with child escorts.
Canada led Guatemala 10-0 in shots on goal in the first half alone and was up 5-0 at the break. Prince's goal, which made it 4-0 in the 43rd minute, told a tale as the muscular forward ran a Guatemalan off the ball, bulled her way past a defender and then finished off the play with a deft shot off the side of her boot.
The win was Canada's third straight at the tournament, following 5-0 and 6-0 shutouts of Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago respectively.
The Americans romped through Group A, outscoring Costa Rica, No. 26 Mexico and No. 108 Puerto Rico 16-0. Costa Rica (2-1-0) finished runner-up in the group.
Herdman rests team ahead of semis
With a berth in the semifinal already secured, Canadian coach John Herdman rested his troops by making seven changes from the team that started against Trinidad & Tobago. Only centre backs Kadeisha Buchanan and Shelina Zadorsky and forwards Tancredi and Beckie remained.
"The other group is going to get a day's extra rest and we had to put that in place for our planning," said Herdman. "We looked at the accumulated minutes [of players] and what people can actually really recover with.
"The goal has always been to make sure that players were fresh for game four — players that we felt were going to have a big impact on that game — so that they are feeling fresh and ready to go. And then there will be a group ready for game five."
The average age of the Canadian starting 11 was just under 24. In the absence of Sinclair, 33-year-old fullback Rhian Wilkinson captained the team for the first time — in her 169th appearance for Canada.
It was a pleasant 22 degrees Celsius at kickoff in a largely empty stadium.
The scoring started early with Tancredi heading in a fine cross from Prince in the fourth minute. Carle made it 2-0 in the 27th, taking advantage of a 'keeper error to poke the ball in. She almost scored again later in the half, hitting the post with a low header.
Beckie upped the lead in the 36th with a good finish off a fine Allysha Chapman cross. The half ended seconds after Quinn converted a penalty for handball in stoppage time.
Quinn scored her second in the 49th from distance into the top corner with the third three minutes via a header. Prince made it 8-0 in the 84th, knocking in a rebound from close quarters. Two minutes later, goalie Alicia Navas' attempt at a goalkick rebounded off Tancredi into her own goal.
Prince completed her hat trick came in the 89th minute.
Canada came into the game with a 13-2-1 career record at the CONCACAF Olympic women's qualifying tournament, outscoring the opposition 55-10 along the way.
In contrast, Guatemala's tournament record was 1-4-0. Prior to Tuesday's game, Sinclair had scored twice as many goals (16) in the qualifying competition as Guatemala had.
The Guyana team was made up almost exclusively of Canadian-based players thanks to coach Mark Rodrigues, who spent 30-plus years in the Toronto area prior to moving to Florida to become executive director of the West Florida Flames.
Bria Williams, a native of Mississauga, Ont., who plays for York University, scored Guyana's lone goal.