Day 1 of the CONCACAF Women's qualifying is in the books, and it was pretty much as you'd expect. It started with Costa Rica taking on Cuba in front of a nearly empty BC Place. Costa Rica were all over Cuba throughout the game, but only ended up with a 2-0 win due to a lot of woeful decision making and finishing. Neither of these team should be causing Canada any problems at all going by that display. The main event followed shortly after and by the time the Canada game kicked off, the crowd had swelled to a respectable 10,000 or so, some of whom were very vocal throughout the match.
Haiti were never really going to be in the game, a fact driven home by the national anthem which revealed they weren't even able to bring their own kits, instead wearing donated practice jerseys, and the goalie's gloves given free by a local sports store. They gave it their best, and really deserve credit for making it this far given all that they've gone through over the last few years, but Canada was the better team throughout and could treat the game almost like a training exercise.
Any tension at all was over in the 7th minute when Canada broke the deadlock, Christine Sinclair passing up the opportunity to score and instead passing to a wide open Christina Julien to knock it home. Sinclair, playing in more of an attacking midfielder role than her usual striking position inevitably got in on the act herself, scoring the next 4 goals before Kelly Parker scored the 6th. The best goal was her 3rd, Canada's 4th, Melissa Tancredi passing the ball over her own head into the path of Sinclair to clinch her hattrick.
Haitian goalie Ednie Limage made many good saves to keep the damage down a bit before she had to leave with what looked like a nasty unfortunate injury, coming out to claim a cross and banging into one of her own defenders. After being subbed oout of the game, she needed further medical attention from paramedics on the sidelines.
An injury was the one thing that put a downer on the night for Canada, Lauren Sesselman falling awkwardly after a challenge and immediately needing substituted with a knee injury. Aside from that, it was an ideal run out for Canada who certainly displayed the confident attacking possession play that coach John Herdman is trying to get them to play. There'll be two more games that really shouldn't be much harder than tonight's so plenty of chances to fine tune their game, get all the squad some playing time and get their confidence up before the semi finals when things could get tough.
One thing that seemed very curious about the coverage before and during the game was the talk of how Herdman is trying to instil a more skilled possession based approach, as if this was a new thing. All through Carolina Morace's reign, similar comments were made about her coaching style, but now that she's out of favour it's strange to see the media unquestioningly recasting her as a coach who relied on Canada's physical advantages rather than skill.
Tomorrow sees two games in group B, Mexico taking on Guatemala and the United States playing the Dominican Republic, before Canada gets back to action against Cuba on Saturday night. The group stage ends on Tuesday, with the serious action of the semi finals starting next Friday.