| A Grainey Day in the Americas
Carson, CA, Nov. 22, 2006
The United States defeated Mexico 2-0 while Canada qualified for a fourth consecutive Women’s World Cup Nov. 22 with a 4–0 win over Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Semi-final. Canada will join 15 other national sides next September in China.
The six-team CONCACAF regional championship was cut to four Nov. 19 in Miami as Jamaica defeated Panama 2–0 and Mexico ousted Trinidad and Tobago 3–0 to meet Canada and USA respectively. Canada and the US will play for the Gold Cup title Nov. 26. Although Canada’s record for 2006 to-date stands at 10–4–2, both losses were to the United States (17-4-0).
The winner of CONCACAF's third-place match will have an inter-regional two game playoff series next year versus Japan, for another opportunity to reach the World Cup Finals. Both matches Sunday are again at Home Depot Centre in Carson, California.
Jamaica's 10 minutes of fame
Jamaica had a more spirited start than Canada, posting two early shots by Peta-Gaye Soman, neither of which troubled Erin McLeod. After 10 minutes Canada asserted control with good efforts from wide midfielder Rhian Wilkinson including hitting the side netting at 16 mins. on a long cross from defender Melanie Booth.
Canada poured on the pressure in the final 15 minutes of the first half. Midfielder Brittany Timko hit the post from short range; Wilkinson sent a clear shot wide from the top of the box and; two minutes later Footballer of the Year nominee Christine Sinclair was put clear on a long run but her chip bounced back off the cross bar.
The floodgates opened at 40 mins. when Candace Chapman found Sinclair 10 meters from goal and the Whitecaps striker buried the ball into the net. A second tally from Diane Matheson was questionably waved off when her initial shot was blocked and she placed the rebound past the goalie from five meters.
One good half deserves another
Jamaica’s second-half offensive forays were resigned to hopeful, long range efforts as Canada’s midfield dominated and broke through Jamaica's defensive line repeatedly. At 51 mins. Wilkinson slotted one home from close range, off a cross-box feed from Sinclair, and some good approach work from Timko. Sinclair scored her second at 71 mins., poaching a Kristina Kiss rebound while Booth iced the cake at 88 mins.
Canada finished the match with nine shots on goal in comparison to Jamaica’s single effort.
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Had Charmaine Hooper not been such a delusional, whiney crap-hole, money-hungry, ego-maniac, she may have been at the Sunday Final, and the 2007 World Cup. But she is and she won't be, and Nov. 22 a squad far more talented than Hooper ever was demonstrated that she won't be missed at all on the field. Ironically, her self-destructive nature appears to be perfectly suited for a position with the CSA
Pellerud both pleased and pissed
Canada coach Even Pellerud was pleased with qualifying again for the Finals, “World Cup qualification means a lot for soccer in Canada, for female soccer. We need that momentum to come through the big tournaments and I’m really pleased,” although he was critical of Jamaica’s delaying tactics, “On the ground, the ball is in play maybe one third of the game, the rest is obstruction and cheating and lying down and crying. It is so frustrating to play these games. I call it anti-soccer… The game has to be played. The ball has to be in play.”
No stage fright for Sinclair
Sinclair, who scored a brace Nov. 22 "with a bit of a hamstring" and has struck 66 times in 87 internationals, echoed her coach’s satisfaction with securing the World Cup invitation, “We’re going to China. That was our goal going into this tournament and we’ve done it. We were nervous and it took us a bit to get adjusted but then we were fine.”
Pellerud also addressed the pressure the team was facing in this game, “We had big time pressure. We had prepared for this game; we had camps, practice games. It’s so hard to have it down to one game and it’s a big mental challenge. In the first 10 or 12 minutes we were stressed as a team, the back four sat very deep, the midfield was hesitant on pressure, we didn’t play our normal game but then we started to create goal chances and play the right way.”
With CONCACAF officials in the room Pellerud didn't hesitate to voice his concerns with CONCACAF’s World Cup Qualifying format. “In order to help all teams in CONCACAF, I think CONCACAF needs to be responsible in setting up normal competition games throughout the whole two-year cycle. That can help not only Canada and Mexico but all the other teams with more regular games. This is a tough system to cope with. You need to play more important games throughout the cycle.”
Regardless, Canada did the job and will contest the regional title against the US, before tackling more important business at the World Cup, where Canada has a chance to build on its fourth place finish in 2003. Midfielder Amy Walsh succinctly summed up her team’s play, “We took care of business".
© 2006 World Football Pages/Tim Grainey