With wins in Friday’s semifinals, the U.S. and Canadian women’s soccer teams both achieved their main objectives in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship by earning berths in this summer’s tournament in Brazil.
But there is still one piece of unfinished business: Sunday’s tournament final in Houston (7 p.m. PST, NBCSN).
For the U.S., that game offers an opportunity to win a fourth straight CONCACAF title while for Canada it looms as a grudge match. Not only has Canada gone 15 years without beating the U.S., but the most painful loss in national team history came against the Americans in controversial circumstances in the 2012 Olympics semifinals.
A pair of unusual fouls allowed the U.S. to send that game into overtime, where it won on Alex Morgan’s goal in the final seconds. The Americans went on to capture their third straight Olympic title three days later.
Many of the principals from that game will be on the field Sunday, including Morgan, who had a hat trick in Friday’s 5-0 semifinal win over Trinidad and Tobago. Canada will return goalkeeper Erin McLeod, whose rare time-wasting penalty set up Abby Wambach’s game-tying penalty kick, and Christine Sinclair, who scored all three of her team’s goals that night.
Sinclair, second to Wambach on soccer’s all-time scoring list, had two more goals in Friday’s 3-1 win over Costa Rica.
More recently, the U.S. spoiled what was to be Canada’s party in last summer’s World Cup, winning its third world championship while the host Canadians were eliminated in the semifinals. And that has the U.S. heading to Brazil with a chance to make history since no country has won World Cup and Olympic titles in back-to-back years.
Both teams have been dominant in winning their four games in the CONCACAF qualifier, with Canada getting goals from 11 women in outscoring its opposition, 24-1, while the U.S. scored 21 times in four straight shutouts, allowing only one shot on goal.
The U.S. hasn’t given up a goal in nine consecutive Olympic qualifying games dating to the final of the 2008 tournament, which it won on penalty kicks. Don’t think Canada has forgotten it lost that game too.