Group A came to a close on Monday with a couple of feel good stories for those in attendance at BC Place. First of all, after a truly terrible first half Haiti dominated the second half to beat Cuba 3:0. After two players defected earlier in the day, Cuba never really looked up for this game, not even managing to pull off the obdurate bus parking that got them respectable losses against Costa Rica and Canada. Haiti's 3 second half goals will have put them in good spirits for the free meal offered to them as a team outing by a local restaurant before they head back home with a very respectable 3rd place finish.
Those were the first goals scored by any of the bottom 4 teams in this alarmingly lopsided tournament, and there was another first in the next game as Costa Rica's goal was the first scored by a losing team. Fortunately by that point, Canada had scored 5, 4 of them in a very impressive first half performance.
The first two came within 10 minutes, both scrappy goals from goalmouth scrambles. Christine Sinclair got the first despite the best efforts of the Costa Rican defender who tried to punch the ball off the line. Sophie Schmidt got the second and the once again impressive Kaylyn Kyle headed home the third from a lovely Sinclair cross. Sinclair got the 4th in impressive fashion, completely wrongfooting 3 defenders with one touch when she chested down an awkward cross, before clamly slotting home inside the far post.
The first half was by far Canada's best of the tournament so far, as if they recognised Costa Rica was more of a threat and they'd have to bring their A game. Much like in Saturday's game against Cuba, the second half was less impressive, and the only goal they got was from a truly comic/tragic own goal. The ball was gently passed back to the Costa Rican goalie, and with no awkward bounce or bobble, she just let it roll under her foot and into the net in hilarious fashion.
So Canada clinches first place and awaits the loser of the US v Mexico game, or Mexico if it ends in a tie due to the US' awe inspiring +27 goal difference. What have they learnt from these first 3 games? Probably not much really, just confirmation of what we all already knew. Christine Sinclair is very very good, and Canada's first team, when it's really going for it, also looks impressive. Will they be able to cope against a good side if things start to go wrong, and avoid a collapse like we saw against the French in last summer's World Cup? Hopefully so, and their performance at the Pan Am games suggest they can, but they were never tested in that way here. So far, they've done what they were expected to do (more than, in this game to be fair), padded their stats and got a good warm up in, now it gets serious.