Christine Sinclair celebrating

Sinclair leads Canada back to Olympic women’s football with win over Costa Rica

A Christine Sinclair brace helped Canada to a 3-1 win over Costa Rica to secure a Rio 2016 Olympic women’s football spot on Friday in Houston.

These were Sinclair’s second and third goals of the qualification tournament. Earlier this week the Canadian became the second highest scorer in the all-time women’s table surpassing Mia Hamm with her 159th goal. She now has 161 with Abby Wambach’s top mark of 184 in sight. Deanne Rose scored Canada’s other goal.

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Canada was on the front foot throughout the first half of the regional (CONCACAF) semifinal, getting two shots on goal from three attempts. A tight Costa Rican formation kept Canada from firing the ball at will in the middle of the park, and much of the play developed from the wings where midfielders and wingbacks found space to operate.

It was in from that environment Sinclair took a cross from a right fullback Josee Belanger on a bounce, passing it to her right foot by using her chest before placing the ball past Costa Rica keeper Dinnia Diaz for a 1-0 Canadian lead at the 17th minute.

Near the end of the half Canada had a penalty claim denied after some strong individual work from Sinclair preceded a shot directed at a defender’s arm, which referee Melissa Borjas of Honduras found fit to forgive.

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There was confusion brushing up against the halftime whistle when it was thought Costa Rica’s Shirley Cruz picked up a second yellow card, which was then given to Katherine Alvarado. The resulting free kick from Alvarado’s offense was taken by Sinclair and held by Diaz protecting the Costa Rica goal.

Captain, Oh My Captain. @c_sinc12 #canwnt

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Seven minutes from restart Sinclair scored her second goal from scratch when defender Diana Saenz failed to clear the danger for Costa Rica after another ball from the right channel bombarded the Central American box.

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Sinclair flipped the loose ball overhead from her right foot to the left, spinning to take the strike on a volley from middle of the box. The shot struck the underside of the crossbar out of Diaz’ reach and dropped inside the goal for a 2-0 Canadian lead.

Costa Rica made it interesting when Desiree Scott was called for a mistimed tackle on Saenz, awarding the Central Americans a penalty. After Saenz redeemed herself a little for her earlier error, Raquel Rodriguez Cedeno buried the penalty sending Canada’s Erin McLeod in goal the wrong way to cut Canada’s advantage to 2-1.

Canada’s third goal arrived from 16-year-old Rose, who redirected a ball on the ground from second half substitute Nichelle Prince for the 3-1 final.

United States plays Trinidad and Tobago in the other semifinal on Friday. The winner of that match will also head to the Olympic Games and face Canada in Sunday’s tournament final.

Canada got to Friday’s semifinal by trouncing Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala in Olympic qualifying group matches.

Canada is the reigning Olympic bronze medallist in women’s football from London 2012.