Canada women look to keep rolling at CONCACAF W Gold Cup against Costa Rica

Having won twice already, the Olympic champion Canadian women are assured of making the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup.

But a victory Wednesday over No. 43 Costa Rica in its final Group C game at Houston's Shell Energy Stadium and the 10th-ranked Canadians will likely go into the knockout round as the top seed. Under tournament rules, in the knockout round it's No. 1 versus No. 8, No. 2 versus No. 7, No. 3 versus No. 6 and No. 4 versus No. 5.

Canada has already 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.

The only other team at the 12-country tournament that can finish with three wins in group play is No. 11 Brazil, which faced No. 55 Panama late Tuesday in San Diego.

"We should know going into our game, besides our group really, where things sit," said Canada coach Bev Priestman. "Obviously we have our own aims and objectives in terms of the win and keeping the momentum going that we've got going.

"Bu of course as technical staff we've got one eye on what's going on elsewhere. Our aim will be to obviously come out of this game with really good differential and another win. But ultimately the process the players have been focused on is just keep pushing and building on the performances that we've had."

It's a milestone 50th game in charge for Priestman, who is 30-9-10 at the Canadian helm since being named coach in October 2020.

The tournament produced a major upset Monday when Mexico blanked the United States 2-0. in Carson, Calif. It marked Mexico's first win over the U.S. since 2010, a span of 16 matches, and improved the Mexican record against the U.S. to 2-40-1.

Mexico (2-0-1) tops Group A, ahead of the Americans (2-1-0).

The loss, the first ever for the U.S. women in California, snapped the Americans' 33-game run of clean sheets in CONCACAF competition. It was also the first loss in regulation time since a defeat at the hands of Germany in November 2022, snapping a 21-game unbeaten streak across all competitions.

While the Canadian women have won all 15 previous meetings with Costa Rica, with a combined 48-6 edge in goals, Priestman says the Central American side will be a step up in class from the two previous opponents.

"Costa Rica have more threats than probably what we've faced," said Priestman.

And at 1-1-0, the Costa Ricans need a result to improve their record for the knockout round.

"They're not going to, I don't think, roll over easily," the Canada coach added. "And we're going to have to keep our standards really high while struggling (with) a lot of management of players and also keeping the next game in mind. So it's going to be a real balancing act for us.

"But what I am clear on with the players … (is) our standards just keep pushing. Because we know where we're going and what we do now is going to help us come July 25th for that Olympic Games (in Paris). And that's very much at the heart of the way we're operating and how we want to play."

The knockout stage will start with the quarterfinals at Los Angeles' BMO Stadium on Saturday and Sunday, followed by the semifinals and final at San Diego's Snapdragon Stadium on March 6 and 10, respectively.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2024

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press