Olympic women's soccer qualifying: Canada all business for last group match
Women's team 1 win away from qualifying for Rio Olympics
Canada's women's national soccer team is one win away from qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics. But they've got one more task ahead of them Tuesday, playing Guatemala in the final group match before they turn their attention to Friday's do-or-die semifinal.
You'll forgive Canadian head coach John Herdman if he's singing or humming the Bachman Turner Overdrive classic "Taking Care of Business" as he guides his team into play Tuesday evening in Houston. That's pretty much the order of the evening as Canada (2-0) looks to wrap up the top spot in Group B with a victory.
Only a loss to winless Guatemala (0-2) and a victory by Trinidad and Tobago over Guyana by more than 10 goals would prevent Canada from clinching the top spot in the group. That means a semifinal date against Costa Rica, the second-place finisher in Group A behind the undefeated United States.
"I think the main part of our preparations is just keeping the team together and focused on the one task and it's to take this team to Rio – and everyone is [focused]," Herdman said prior to the Guatemala match.
Canada opened the tournament with a 5-0 victory over Guyana and looked even more sharp in handling Trinidad and Tobago, 6-0, in a game where Christine Sinclair moved past Mia Hamm into second place on the all-time women's goal list with her 159th international marker. Only Abby Wambach of the United States (184) has scored more goals.
Those victories guaranteed a spot for Canada in one of Friday's semifinals, the matches that determine which two teams will qualify for Rio.
"The team is bright, we're having fun, we haven't got the same sort of pressure that we had in Vancouver [2012 Olympic qualifying] or at the World Cup," Herdman said. "It just feels a lot lighter and the team's got this feeling of we're in a bit of a bubble at the minute, we only need to focus on the game."
Canada, of course, qualified for the 2012 Olympics and came home with a bronze medal, Canada's first Summer Olympics team sport medal since a 1936 men's basketball silver in Berlin.
Veteran player Sophie Schmidt talked about the team's mindset heading into Tuesday's match.
"It's just building off the performances we've had and polishing up a few little things to make sure we put in the best performance come that semifinal," Schmidt said. "Because that's the big game that will have us qualify, or not qualify, for the Olympics."
Win vs. Guatemala comes with a perk
Herdman is well aware that the Group A semifinalists have an extra day of rest to prepare for Friday's penultimate games.
"We looked at the accumulated minutes [of players] and what people can actually recover with," Herdman said. "The goal has always been to make sure that players were fresh for game four [the semifinal], players that we felt we going to have a big impact on that game."
Canada's balanced scoring and offensive output of 11 goals in two games has them fully confident heading into the Guatemala match. Eight different goal scorers, led by Ashley Lawrence with three goals and Deanne Rose with two, have found the net so far in the tournament.
Taking care of business will assure that Canada doesn't overlook Guatemala en route to the semifinal but saves their biggest bullets for Friday's showdown.