Canadian women qualify for the 2023 World Cup with a 1-0 win over persistent Panama

MONTERREY, Mexico — It wasn’t pretty, but Canada managed to defeat a stubborn Panama side 1-0 at the CONCACAF W Championship on Friday and qualify for the 2023 World Cup.

Costa Rica’s 4-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago earlier in the day meant a win over Panama would secure qualification for the Canadian women, with one group game remaining for the eight-team tournament.

Panama, No. 57, made things difficult for sixth-placed Canada on a windy night at the Estadio Universitario.

Canada dominated the game, Panama tried to frustrate and relied on fouls to break up the action – often delaying subsequent free-kicks by not retiring from the ball.

Panama players also often went down with the team’s coaches rolling onto the field on a regular basis.

“It’s a great learning experience,” said Canada coach Bev Priestman. “Was it good enough? no And everyone knows that. But we won. . . and we move on.”

Friday’s result secured Olympic champions Canada (2-0-0) a top-two finish in Group B and a place in the semifinals, meaning they reach the World Championships in Australia and New Zealand.

No. 37 Costa Rica (2-0-0) also qualified from the Canadian group.

The third-placed team in each group advances to an intercontinental World Cup playoff.

Canada’s breakthrough came in the 64th minute through Julia Grosso, who opened her top scorer with two substitute goals in Tuesday’s 6-0 win against No. 76 Trinidad and Tobago.

A Panama defender tried to clear a Jessie Fleming cross only to see the ball go straight to Grosso.

The 21-year-old Juventus midfielder deftly deflected the ball to avoid a defender and put it in goal.

“Credit Julia. She stepped forward and put the ball back in the net,” Priestman said.

Canada had 69 percent possession and overtook Panama 12-4 (7-2 on shots). Panama opted for a low block and placed defenders over the field.

Priestman praised Panama for its negative, time-wasting tactic, saying, “I mean, it worked.”

Canada’s coach also saw it as a sign of respect for her team. Priestman’s message at halftime was one of disappointment.

“I thought the performance in the first half wasn’t good enough,” she said.

“Our standards have come down and I think players would agree with that. But in the second half I was happy with how they came out to get back to our level.

The Canadians finish Monday’s pool game against Costa Rica to decide who tops Pool B.

That probably means that the leaders from the USA, who also qualified for the World Cup, dodge in the semifinals.

The CONCACAF tournament doubles as a qualifier for the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games.

Only the CONCACAF winner will be guaranteed an Olympic spot and a ticket to the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup, to be held in 2024.

The second- and third-placed teams will meet in a CONCACAF Olympic Play-In series scheduled for September 2023, with the winner also qualifying for the Paris Olympics and the CONCACAF W Gold Cup.

The World Cup consists of 32 teams, compared to just 12 at the Olympics.

Canada qualified for seven of the previous eight World Cups and missed the inaugural event in China 1991 when the USA were the only CONCACAF representatives in the then 12-nation field.

Canada, which hosted the event in 2015, had its best performance in 2003 when it placed fourth.

After playing at the 53,500-seat Estadio BBVA – home of CF Monterrey – in the Guadalupe suburb on Tuesday, Canada moved to the Estadio Universitario on Friday.

The 41,600-seat Monterrey stadium known as El Volcan is home to Tigres UANL.

Priestman made five changes to their starting lineup, fielding goalies Sabrina D’Angelo, Grosso, Shelina Zadorsky, Adriana Leon and Nichelle Prince. Janine Beckie switched from striker back to full-back.

Captain Christine Sinclair, who scored a world record 190th international goal in the tournament’s opener, was making her 313rd appearance for Canada – and her 306th start.

Canada had 71 percent possession in a goalless first half, but that didn’t translate into quality scoring chances.

The Canadians had a 6-2 lead on shots (2-1 on target) while Panama defended with more manpower and tried to slow down the game whenever possible.

Canada were close in the 19th minute when Leon’s header flashed high. Two minutes later, Panama captain Laurie Batista saw her long-range shot go just over the Canada bar.

Prince was brought down directly in the box by two Panama defenders in the 27th minute, but the potential penalty was nullified by an offside flag.

The game paused going to the video review but nothing came out.

D’Angelo made her first save in the 38th minute, a convenient stop of a Marta Cox free-kick from well outside the box.

At the other end, Prince pinned the ball just wide in the 42nd after Panama failed to clear a free-kick.

Priestman sent forward Cloe Lacasse and full-back Jayde Riviere at half in place of Sinclair and Prince.

And Leon forced an acrobatic dive save from Yenith Bailey in the 46th minute.

Jordyn Huitema and Quinn, who goes by the same name, came on for Canada in the 57th.

Panama’s Rosario Vargas came just over the bar with another long-range shot in the 80th.

The Canadians have never lost to Panama, beating the 57th-placed team 13-0 in their previous two encounters.

Sinclair scored twice the last time Canada scored against Panama – a 7-0 win in October 2018 at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship that earned Canada a place at the 2019 World Cup in France.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 8, 2022

Leave a Comment