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Canada needs extra time to dispatch Costa Rica in CONCACAF W Gold Cup quarterfinal

Canada soccer Ashley Lawrence - The Canadian Press

LOS ANGELES — Canada is through to the CONCACAF W Gold Cup semifinals by the skin of its teeth.

Canada needed extra time — and a lifeline from goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan in second-half stoppage time — to dispatch a stubborn Costa Rica side 1-0 Saturday and move on to the final four, against either the second-ranked U.S. or No. 23 Colombia, who square off Sunday.

Costa Rica only made it to the knockout round via a drawing of lots. But the 43rd-ranked Central Americans refused to yield to 10th-ranked Canada, whose finishing left a lot to be desired on the night.

Substitute Evelyne Viens finally ended the deadlock in the 104th minute, heading in a looping Jesse Fleming free kick from just in front of the penalty box for her fifth Canada goal. The AS Roma forward almost scored again in the 106th minute, only to be denied by goalkeeper Daniela Solera.

Valeria del Campo had one final chance for Costa Rica, but swept her shot just high in the dying minutes of stoppage time.

Canada outshot Costa Rica 39-5 (10-1 in shots on target), with 13 corners to Costa Rica's one, and had 65 per cent possession.

"It just felt like the ball just couldn't cross the line," said Canada coach Bev Priestman. "All credit to Costa Rica."

It marked the Canadian women's first foray into extra time since the Olympic final in Tokyo in August 2021, which ended in a penalty shootout win over Sweden.

Canada had won all 16 previous meetings with Costa Rica, with a combined 51-6 edge in goals, including a 3-0 victory in group play Wednesday in Houston.

Sheridan, who had been a spectator for most of the match, made a game-saving save in second-half injury time, kicking out her right foot to deny substitute Alexa Herrerra in a rare Costa Rica attack, assisted by some statue-like Canadian defending.

"That's just Kailen," said Viens, a 27-year-old from L'Ancienne-Lorette, Que. "It's typical. When she's in goal, I know we can get a clean sheet."

"Big players come up big in big moments," added Priestman, whose team will next play Wednesday in San Diego.

Facing a physical Costa Rica team that packed its defence, Canada dominated play but could not finish and went into halftime tied 0-0. The Canadians outshot Costa Rica 16-1 (5-0 in shots on target) in the first half and had 70 per cent possession.

The Canadians began to show some frustration in the second half, unable to dent Costa Rica. It was one-way traffic but Costa Rica defended resolutely.

"In a knockout game, when it's not coming or it's not coming off, set piece after set piece, you could see the frustration and the panic setting in," said Priestman. "So it's an unbelievable learning moment for us."

The win over Costa Rica on Wednesday sent the Canadians into the knockout round as the top seed among the eight teams advancing, having outscored its opposition 13-0 in three group stage wins with a combined 51-5 edge in shots.

Costa Rica had to survive a drawing of lots with No. 103 Puerto Rico to move on as the eighth seed after all other tiebreakers failed to separate the two teams.

No. 11 Brazil played No. 31 Argentina in the nightcap at BMO Stadium, home to Los Angeles FC and Angel City FC.

Priestman fielded perhaps the strongest starting 11 she had available, with Jade Rose, Cloe Lacasse and Quinn, who goes by one name, coming in for Shelina Zadorsky, Clarissa Larisey and Simi Awujo.

The Canadians are missing the injured Janine Beckie, Sydney Collins, Nichelle Prince, Jayde Riviere and Desiree Scott.

Canada threatened early, creating some five chances in the first 15 minutes but not finishing them.

Huitema, who took several knocks in the first half, was replaced at halftime by Deanne Rose.

Costa Rican players went down with regularity in the second half no doubt with one eye on the clock and looking to disrupt the Canadian momentum. Canada's wayward finishing continued.

Priestman was unable to send on teenage striker Olivia Smith to bolster the offence. The 19-year-old was "unavailable," said Prietsman without elaborating. OneSoccer, which broadcast the game, said Smith was in concussion protocol.

The Canadians earlier dispatched No. 104 El Salvador 6-0 and No. 50 Paraguay 4-0. Costa Rica lost 1-0 to Paraguay before defeating El Salvador 2-0.

"We've had a bit of a great run," said Priestman. "In many ways maybe we needed this game, a little bit, to set us up for the next game."

Canadians Kadeisha Buchanan, Fleming and Leon were named to the tournament's all-star team of the group phase by tournament organizers.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2024.