Canadian women prepare for soccer bragging-rights in clash against U.S. rivals
Having ticked Olympic qualifying box, North American foes prepare for Sunday's final
Fresh from celebrating Olympic qualification with semifinal wins Friday, Canada and the U.S., clash Sunday with bragging rights on the line at the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship.
"We're definitely not finished at this tournament," said Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller.
"Every time you're in a final, you go for the win," he added.
Canada has finished runner-up to the U.S. at the last three CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournaments. The top-ranked Americans have dominated the event over the years, compiling a 22-0-1 record while outscoring the opposition 120-3.
The two North American rivals have met 58 times in all competitions, with the U.S. holding a 48-3-7 advantage over Canada.
WATCH | Huitema scores winner for Canada against Costa Rica:
The last time they met, the U.S. won 2-0 in the final of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament in Frisco, Texas, in October 2018. That game was Heiner-Moller's first against the U.S. as Canada coach. He moved up from assistant to head coach after John Herdman moved to the men's side in January 2018.
"I'm Danish, right, and I've heard it's a little bit like when Denmark meets Germany. And that's exciting," Heiner-Moller said after the Costa Rica win. "I'm looking forward to the match. I've been in Canada for three years so I'm half-Canadian for sure and I'm looking forward to playing the U.S.A."
Canada and the U.S. booked their ticket to the Tokyo Olympics with wins Friday at Dignity Health Sports Park. Eighth-ranked Canada defeated No. 37 Costa Rica 1-0 while the No. 1 Americans defeated No. 26 Mexico 4-0.
Neither team has conceded a goal yet at the tournament.
Both teams dominated group play, winning all three of their matches. Canada had a plus-22 goal difference — compared to plus-18 for the Americans.
Canada has not beaten the U.S. since the 2001 Algarve Cup when Charmaine Hooper scored twice and Christine Sinclair once in a 3-0 win. The Canadian women have gone 0-29-6 against the Americans since, but have tied two of the last five meetings.
Sinclair, who now has the all-time world goal-scoring record with 186, has scored 11 times against the U.S.
WATCH | Sinclair's record-breaking goal:
The Canadian women have won bronze at the last two Olympics and exited in the quarter-finals in 2008 in Beijing. Canada failed to qualify for the 2004 Games, beaten by Mexico in qualifying.
The Canadian women missed out on the 1996 and 2000 Games, when the U.S. was the lone CONCACAF representative in the eight-team field.
The U.S. was a disappointing fifth four years ago in Rio, after losing to Sweden in a quarter-final penalty shootout, but previously won gold in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012, as well as silver in 2000.
The two teams met in a semifinal thriller at the 2012 London Games, with the United States coming out on top 4-3 in overtime despite a memorable Sinclair hat trick.
4 spots remain
Brazil, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, joining host Japan in the 12-country field.
Seven Asian teams are still in the running for Tokyo with two to advance from Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, Myanmar, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Cameroon and Zambia face off in an African home-and-away series in March with the winner qualifying for Tokyo. The loser will meet Chile in an intercontinental playoff in April to see who joins them.