Canada’s Sinclair sets goal record in Olympic qualifier

EDINBURG, Texas (AP) — Christine Sinclair scored twice to pass Abby Wambach for the international goals record among both men and women, and Canada defeated Saint Kitts and Nevis 11-0 on Wednesday in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Sinclair converted on a penalty in the seventh minute to match Wambach with 184 goals, then broke the former U.S. star’s record in the 23rd. To celebrate, she bowled the ball to a group of her teammates, who all fell down. The record came in her 290th appearance for the national team.

“All I could think of was don’t miss the net,” she said. “But luckily I didn’t.”

Adriana Leon scored four goals in Canada’s opening match of the tournament, which will determine the region’s two berths in this summer’s Tokyo Games. Ashley Lawrence added two goals, while Jayde Riviere, Jessie Fleming and Jordyn Huitema also scored.

Sinclair, who was subbed out of the game in the 47th minute, made her debut for Canada’s senior team in 2000 at age 16. Now 36, she also plays for the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League.

“I definitely feel a relief, especially with the tournament we’re in right now, because there’s some big things to focus on,” she said. “It’s just nice to get it out of the way in the opening game so we can focus on getting better and improving and qualifying for the Olympics.”

She has led Canada to back-to-back bronze medal finishes at the Olympics, and has scored 11 of her goals in 15 Olympic appearances.

Wambach posted a tribute to Sinclair on Instagram.

“Tonight, I am celebrating the honor of passing that record, that legacy of our beautiful game, to the great Christine Sinclair: world-record holder for most international goals — man or woman — in history. Christine: History is made. Your victory is our victory. We celebrate with you,” Wambach wrote.

“To have scored an all-time international record goal haul, and to still be going strong, is truly outstanding. Christine’s achievements have made her an icon in Canada. She transcends the sport and is a wonderful role model for people across the country,” said CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani, the former president of the Canadian Federation.

Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in via Twitter: “She did it! Christine Sinclair is now international soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer. Congratulations, @sincy12 – you rock!”

In addition to Saint Kitts and Nevis, Canada’s group for qualifying includes Jamaica and Mexico. The opposite group, which includes the United States, Costa Rica, Haiti and Panama, is playing its matches in Houston.

“Obviously it feels really good, I mean, we know the competition is going to get more and more difficult as the tournament goes on,” Sinclair said. “But I thought we played well for 90 minutes.”

American Jene Baclawski coaches Saint Kitts and Nevis, making its first appearance in the qualifying tournament.

The top teams in each group advance to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7. The top two finishers in the tournament qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo this summer.