Canada, U.S. renew CONCACAF rivalry after securing Olympic qualification
'We're going to give them one hell of a fight' says Canadian coach
Fresh from securing Olympic qualification, Canada and the U.S. will renew their rivalry Sunday when they meet for CONCACAF women's bragging rights.
There is little else on the table at BBVA Compass Stadium. With wins Friday over Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago, respectively, Canada and the U.S. have accomplished what they set out to do — earn places in the 12-team Olympic field.
But the two CONCACAF heavyweights relish their scraps, even if the top-ranked Americans have dominated in recent years.
Canadian coach John Herdman says his 11th-ranked squad is up for the challenge.
"It's what these girls were really looking forward to, coming here ... we're going to give them one hell of a fight as we always do and [we're] looking forward to it," he said.
The Canadian mantra was summed up by fullback Allysha Chapman.
"We've done the expected. Time to do the unexpected Sunday!" she tweeted after the Costa Rica win.
It has been almost 15 years since Canada beat the U.S. 2-0 at the Algarve Cup. Since then, the Americans have won 26 and lost five. The teams tied 1-1 the last time they met, in May 2014 in Winnipeg.
Herdman, however, believes Canada has the goods to be a top-four team that can challenge anyone.
Both teams have been dominant en route to the final here. Canada outscored the opposition 24-1 with 11 different players getting goals while the U.S. blanked its opponents while piling up 21 goals.
While Canada was heavily favoured against the 34th-ranked Costa Ricans, the team was happy to put the qualification match behind them. There is no margin for error in one-and-done games although veteran Diana Matheson says the Canadians handled the pressure well.
"That's honestly the most stressful game in a four-year cycle every time," she said. "And tonight it just didn't feel quite as stressful. And I thought we brought a pretty calm performance, executed the game plan, got the three goals we needed, got the win."
Canadian veterans will have not forgotten their 4-3 extra-time loss to the Americans in the Olympic semifinal four years ago. Canada went on to earn bronze — thanks to a Matheson stoppage-time goal — while the U.S. won gold for the third Games in a row and fourth in five Olympics.
Both teams will also be looking to protect players given Sunday marks the fifth game for both since the tournament started Feb. 10 (Feb. 11 for Canada).
Carrying a calf injury, captain Christine Sinclair limped off in the 82nd minute Friday after a stellar two-goal performance. Veteran goalkeeper Erin McLeod played the whole game but is nursing a knee injured in December at a tournament in Brazil.
Herdman, whose roster has been deepened by the addition of some talented youngsters, has rotated his roster throughout the tournament. He fielded his strongest lineup in both the opener and semifinal, with nine veterans of the World Cup plus 16-year-old Deanne Rose and 23-year-old Shelina Zadorsky.
Host Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe have already qualified for Rio. The 12-team field will be completed by two teams from Asia and one of the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
"It's a business trip but one we thoroughly enjoy," Sinclair said of going to the Games.